The Burn Brown Book

Item

Current View

Title

The Burn Brown Book

Date

2020

Place

Providence, Rhode Island

extracted text

The Burn Brown Book
a shady, abolitionist disorientation guide

2

Acknowledgements
There are too many people to name that have contributed to the creation of this book!
With that being said, we want to give gratitude to all those revolutionaries and healers
and hackers and thinkers and organizers and writers and artists and baddies who have
struggled before us. We stand on the shoulders of giants! We also want to give all of our
love and strength to the folks who come to this work after us. You are doing great
sweetie! And to the folks presently struggling against oppression, we want to give a
reminder: it is only through camaraderie, solidarity, and coalition that we can unlock our
fullest potentials. No one person can achieve what it is we’re after. In the words of
Mariame Kaba, “everything worthwhile is done with other people.” And in the words of
Onika Tanya Maraj, “TO FREEDOM!”

3

Table of Contents
Acknowledgements

2

Table of Contents

3

Welcome to Brown! Time 2 Destroy Her :)

4

Neocolonial Providence

8

Thoughts on Neocolonial Providence

18

(Re)Distribution Requirements

22

Hijacking the University

34

Critical University Studies: Pushing for Decolonial Disciplines ...

41

Power Mapping

51

Admissions

53



A Timeline of Student Activism @ Brown University

54

“We were absolutely unified”: Remembering Third World History at Brown University 67
A Timeline of Student Environmental Activism

78

Building a MFKN Movement!!!

90

Storytime: #BlackWalk50

100

Anti-Zionism and Palestinian Liberation Efforts @ Brown

103

The Pinkprint of Brown Divest

108

Notes from the Student Labor Alliance

120

The Brownopticon

124

Cyber & Self-Defense 4 Hacker Femmes & Radical Anarchist Theydies

137

Where Have We Been? Where Can We Go?

152

A Note on Healing

163

#BurnBrown

166

4

Welcome to Brown! Time 2 Destroy Her :)
The Sitch
Hello to all of the girls, gays, queers, theys, and those that ID in other ways!
First and foremost, welcome <3 We’re not sure why or how you got here, but you’re
here. It’s normal to feel nervous, elated, overwhelmed, and - for some of our more
politically active folks - maybe even a little excited. Many students decide to come to
Brown because of its reputation for student activism and progressive politics. Maybe
you were expecting to find that here too. You might have heard about the Slavery and
Justice Report or the Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan or the Brown Promise, and
thought “Wow, Brown’s doing some good shit!” These talking points are often used to
bolster Brown’s reputation as the “Liberal Ivy,” but upon interrogation, it’s clear that
“Liberal Ivy” is nothing more than an oxymoron.
The more time that you spend on campus, the more that you’ll begin to realize that not
everything is as it’s made to appear. You might be surprised to hear that the governing
Board of the University is called the Brown Corporation and it’s largely made up of
CEOs, venture capitalists, and bank owners; that money has had a history of influencing
everything on campus from sexual assault cases to student admissions; that 60% of
folks on campus are a part of the top 10% and 20% are a part of the top 1%. The list
goes on.
The tea really is, Brown University, like many other universities across the nation, is
integral to the function of capitalism, white supremacy, and patriarchy. In the table
below, we’ve outlined some of the ways that Brown participates in the maintenance and
upkeep of these oppressive systems.
Brown’s Narrative
The things Brown says
about itself. The stated
ideals and philosophy of
the university.
Brown’s role in
addressing inequity is
creating space for

Ulterior Motives &
Oppressive Behaviours
The covert, oppressive
agenda that’s hidden within
Brown’s stated aims and
intentions.

Alternative Practices
Suggestions as to how we
can rid the world of
Brown’s fuck shit.

The alienation of
Build and maintain
marginalized people from their relationships with people
communities (i.e.
from our own

5
marginalized people at
this university and
empowering them with an
education. If individuals
from marginalized
communities do well for
themselves, their entire
community will reap the
benefits.

indoctrinating students with
values that lead them to
abandon the material and
political interests of their
communities); the production
of exceptionalism narratives
that make oppressive
dynamics invisible. The
presence and parading of
token minorities is often done
to mask larger structural
inequities.

communities including the
Providence community;
destroy the imagined
separation that exists
between students “on the
hill” and the people of
Providence; refuse
tokenhood and support
the political work being
done by and for
marginalized people.

Brown is an inclusive
institution! We have a
diverse set of students,
staff, and faculty, and
we’re happy that they
contribute to the
university in such
meaningful ways.

The extraction of labor and
life from communities within
and around the university (i.e.
exploited labor, profiting from
narratives of trauma, ongoing
gentrification and refusing to
pay property taxes,
investment in companies that
destroy the lives of working
people all around the globe,
etc.)

Provide reparations to
Black and Indigenous
communities (as well as
the Providence
community more broadly);
end the university's
investment in the prison
industrial complex, fossil
fuels, Palestinian
oppression, etc; prevent
further gentrification of
Providence and yield
control of the university’s
capital plan/physical
expansion to the
Providence community.

Brown is a research
institution and it is our
goal to pursue knowledge
and truth, an apolitical
endeavor.

The production of
knowledge that maintains an
unjust social and economic
order (i.e. research that
supports the proliferation of
oppressive technologies,
gatekeeping the “marketplace
of ideas,” etc.).

Pursue and disseminate
knowledge in ways that
benefit and uplift
marginalized
communities; embrace
decolonial ways of
knowing; boycott and
deplatform when
necessary.

Brown is a
high-performance
university and elite higher
learning institution. Here
you’ll find the best and

The maintenance of castes
that include and exclude
people from social and
economic mobility (i.e.
gatekeeping entry to the

Actualize a lottery or open
admissions policy;
reorganize the university’s
budget and priorities until
the financial needs of all

6
the brightest!

university via an unjust
admissions process, saddling
students with debt, providing
little-to-no protection from
violence for marginalized
people, etc.).

students can be met fully;
create systems of
accountability and support
that cannot be influenced
by money or clout.

The above just scrapes the surface, but we hope it's illuminating. Now, the question
remains: how do we move forward?
Moving Forward
It’s easy to become overwhelmed by - for lack of a better expression - the fuckery that
Brown gets up to. But it’s important that we stay vigilant, critical, and active. As students
at this university, given all of the harm that Brown causes around the globe, it’s
imperative that we take on the responsibility of holding the University accountable and
working toward its eventual destruction. Saying it again for the bitties in the back, you
have a responsibility to do something about Brown’s fuckery now that you’re here
benefiting from it.
The purpose of this disorientation guide is (1) to orient folks toward political goals and
strategies with queer, decolonial, abolitionist potential (2) to share histories of organizing
on campus as well as the institutional knowledge that has sprung from that organizing,
and (3) to provide folks with tools to effectively organize against (and eventually abolish)
the University. That said, we’re not experts. We only have our experiences and what
we’ve learned from those who have come before us.
Now without further ado, we invite you to peruse the contents of the guide - perhaps not
all in one go - and then when you’re ready, fuck shit up! Happy organizing <3

7

“Boo, you neoliberal!”
– Regina George

8

Neocolonial Providence
Nonprofits, Brown, and the Company Town
By Servius G
Posted on March 17, 2014
This is a working-draft of an intended longer piece which critically interrogates the
spatial politics of Providence and explores the revolutionary potential of a radical urban
social movement. My intent is to offer critiques of the ontological layout of urban space
by investigating how power-relations currently transpire throughout the city so as to
develop new methods and means of resistance and to be better able to strategize
beyond manufactured limits of dissent. The central focus in this analytical piece is
Brown University and the local the nonprofit industrial complex.
Although coherently gathering my thoughts on Brown University and its parasitic
neocolonial relationship to Providence has been an overwhelming process, it has also
been therapeutic to finally lay out my observations on how Brown University’s
mechanisms of domination are carried out. For several months now I have felt ethically
and politically paralyzed working through the difficulty of sharply articulating my critiques
of the University.
It would be too easy to highlight the University’s past with colonial Rhode Island as one
initially founded by the Brown family, whose massive wealth was built on the backs of
African slaves – cause everyone knows about that. What isn’t so obvious is how in its
modern incarnation it acts as an institution that maintains heavy economic and political
influence over the city, state, and beyond.
I try to think – should I focus on the mafia-like network of Brown alumni that occupy
various power-positions throughout the city-state? Or would I get my point across
further if I focus on the institution’s tendency of displacing entire communities by
facilitating gentrification? Perhaps my argument would be better served if I concentrate
on how the University manipulates the city’s political terrain and functions to reproduce
the local ruling class?
Ultimately, the avenue I choose to explicate Brown University’s parasitic relationship
with Providence has to reflect the way in which I initially came to notice the institution’s
processes of domination – and that’s through focusing on the link between the
University and the city’s nonprofit industry.

9
My aim in the following analysis is to detail the ways in which Brown operates as a locus
for the development and direction of various nonprofit organizations in Providence. In
my analysis I’ll describe how loose networks of Brown alumni heavily influence the city’s
political culture and how students from Brown tend to either dominate, divert, or pacify
local social movement efforts through institutionalized-grassroots organizations.
The first task is to question the political ontology of Brown University as it exists within
Providence’s socio-spacial terrain. My critique will interrogate the University’s underlying
ideological structure and its function as a site for the reproduction of social relations.
I’ll then shift into exploring the intricacies of the nonprofit industry and its ideological
underpinnings. Next, I’ll apply a critical analysis of the nonprofit industrial complex to
investigate how the industry has manifested in a local context. Through that
investigation, I’ll detail the neocolonial relationship between Brown University,
Providence’s nonprofit industry, and the city’s institutional-grassroots.
How Brown Rules
Corporate Governance, Finance Capital, and Civil Cohesion
To understand Brown University’s power over Providence, we must first examine the
structure and purpose of the school itself as a site of class reproduction and civil
cohesion. Ivy League institutions, including Yale, Colombia, Harvard and the like, are
influential not necessarily because of their athletics or academics, but rather for their
utility in ensuring class cohesion of the country’s capitalist elite and its beneficiaries. As
John Trumpbour noted in his critical text How Harvard Rules, these elite universities
serve crucial functions for the ruling class. While Trumpbour’s assertions dealt mostly
with Harvard Business School’s role in training and recruiting students who go on to
become powerful finance capitalists, using a critical genocidal analytic I aim to argue
that Brown University serves a similar purpose of class reproduction by preparing its
students to become maintenance-agents for the cohesion of white civil society and
advanced global capitalism.
The structure of Brown University’s administrative body has tremendous influence over
how the university operates as well as manipulating the school’s overall development
and underlying ideological culture. Almost half of the members that make up the
Corporation of Brown University’s Board of Trustees hold occupations in global finance
and other major economic industries.

10
In his essay titled “Industry and Empire in Crimson Cambridge,” Trumpdour speaks
about U.S. capitalism’s “inner-group” – “the few members of the capitalist elite who hold
numerous interlocking directorships in the Fortune 500 and the major [philanthropic]
foundation and university governing boards.” As a prestigious knowledge-factory based
in the city’s highest-income neighborhood of the East Side, Brown is not excluded from
this reality. To verify this truth, let’s consider the Brown Corporation – the school’s
central governing body.
Composed of mostly alumni, Trustee members include economic power players such as
Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan, Goldman Sachs associate Andrea Terzi Baum,
and TPG Capital COO Jerome Vascellaro. Another branch of administration within the
Corporation is the Board of Fellows, which is comprised of eleven members including
the school’s president. Finance capital is also well represented among the Fellows.
Members include people such as Providence Equity founder Jonathan Nelson and
Goldman Sachs managing director Richard Friedman.
The Brown Corporation is in charge of major aspects of the University. Its
responsibilities include selecting the President; setting the budget, tuition, and fees;
appointing senior administrative officers; establishing policy and strategic plan, among
other bureaucratic tasks. Embedded in the operations of these rigid hierarchical
structures are values that inform the ideological culture of the university.
Exploring how Brown University is governed is a crucial task if we truly want to
understand how mechanisms of power operate within and beyond the University. In
How Harvard is Ruled, Robert Weissman emphasizes the significance of governance
structures on students, asserting that “the manner in which the University is run not only
affects students’ education, but educates them as well.” He continues, “it teaches
[students] that those who hold power are not, and should not be, held accountable – an
important lesson both to those who will become the country’s leaders and to those who
will be funnelled into the middle-class.”
Racial/Colonial Genocide and Class Reproduction at the Academy
Dylan Rodriguez posits that the role of a school in a colonial genocidal order is to train
students to find their place within white civil society and reproduce the violent social
relations that uphold and maintain global capitalism. In the realm of the academy, the
school acts as a factory that paradigmatically orders and exports bodies, embedding
within them dehumanizing systemic logics and values using institutional techniques,
rhetorics, and epistemologies of violence and power.

11

As part of the ideological state apparatus, Brown University’s mission promotes
philanthropic entrepreneurship and dedication to public service. At the core of these
values are a set of ideologies that serve the functional interests of genocidal state
structures. The neoliberal academy’s institutional narrative of philanthropy,
entrepreneurship, and public service masks the violent, teleological mythologies of
liberal white humanism, multiculturalist democracy, and national progress, as Rodriguez
suggests. For the sake of discourse, I’ll refer to these guiding ethics and system logics
as export-values.
During their tenure at Brown, students find themselves planted in a culture of power,
prestige and elitism. No matter the mindset of the student as they enter the school, the
university manages to embed within them a certain set of values and ideologies that
they carry almost everywhere they go. These export-values, reified through curriculum,
seep into the psyche of the student and shape how they operate in the spaces they
occupy. This phenomenon is applicable not only to Brown – in fact, all students exit with
export-values molded by the ideological culture of their sites of study.
The crucial role that schools play in forming capitalist social relations that maintain the
current social order needs to be highlighted. Schools are believed to be sites meant for
learning, personal exploration, and intellectual development. Though in actuality, the
mechanized purpose of a school – especially in a neoliberal era – is to sort, stratify, and
solidify the social position of incoming and outgoing students. Most students are aware
that their purpose at any given university is to train for a future career and especially to
develop one’s social and professional network in hopes of finding employment after
graduation.
Most Brown students are funneled into the managerial class throughout various
industries, particularly the medical, education, public administration, and nonprofit
sectors. These are the same sectors that employ large amounts of workers across
Rhode Island. For this very reason it is imperative to analyze Brown University’s
function as an institution that exports bodies, values, and ideologies to uphold the pillars
of white civil society and maintain a violent capitalist social order.
The Webs of Capital in a Company Town: Providence, Brown and the Nonprofit
Industrial Complex
Components of the industrial complex

12
Similar to international non-governmental organizations [NGO’s], nonprofits can take on
varying forms to serve numerous functions. Moreover, nonprofit work resembles
neocolonial missionary work in which missionaries [read: workers] are responsible for
administering and delivering humanitarian aid [read: philanthropic capital] to those at the
bottom rungs of white civil society.
Ruth Wilson Gilmore suggests that the nonprofit industry functions as a “third-sector”
that has arisen due to the social abandonment caused by neoliberal market structures.
To fill the void, the US has increased its dependence on philanthropic capital to attempt
to selectively meet the needs of those in the throes of social abandon amidst a critical
period of deepening austerity and neoliberal restructuring. Nonprofit organizations tend
to provide a myriad of social services such as youth programs, job training programs,
violence prevention programs, housing services, and domestic violence services.
Further interrogation would bring us closer to a more critical understanding of the role
nonprofits play in fulfilling the neocolonial desires of white, owning-class elites. Funded
largely by grants coming from philanthropic foundations, individual donors, or
government agencies, nonprofit organizations typically maintain a heavy reliance on
funding from sources outside of the communities they operate in. The funds from
philanthropic capital, such as the Ford, Rockerfeller, and Mellon foundations, often
come with restricting ties that end up dictating the form and content of the services
nonprofits deliver.
Sternly specific funding rubrics and structural prohibitions informed by the legal
structure of nonprofits situate organizations in a position where they are bestowed the
responsibility to deliver direct services to those “in need” as identified by
finance-philanthropist coffers.
Although dependence on philanthropic funding is one way in which nonprofits fall into
the machinations of neoliberal state-apparatuses, another way is by professionalizing
“good work” and creating a specialized career-path for people who want to become
nonprofit managers. What is more, nonprofit work now demands a certain set of
specialized skills necessary to operate and maintain the mission of the organization
contributing to the careerist culture of the industry.
Andrea Smith mentions nonprofit workers spend “inordinate amounts of time writing
proposals, designing programs to meet foundation guidelines, tracking and evaluating
programs to satisfy foundations, or soliciting private donations through direct-mail
appeals, house parties, benefits, and other fundraising techniques.”

13

The combination of specialized skill-sets and the professionalization of nonprofit work
has a troubling effect on grassroots movements. As more grassroots leftist groups
become institutionalized into the nonprofit industry, movement-building work becomes
substituted for nonprofit work mired in careerism – where the focus is maintaining the
mission of the organization instead of building collective power within communities with
the liberatory potential to challenge antagonistic social hierarchies.
This insidious element of the nonprofit industry creates a certain dynamic where people
are stratified into positions that reinforce and maintain the need for the services
nonprofits deliver rather than legitimately addressing the root causes of those needs. As
Andrea Smith posits, “The existence of these jobs serves to convince people that
tremendous inequalities of wealth are natural and inevitable.”
Each of these enmeshing characteristics – dependence on foundation funding,
specialization of nonprofit work, proximity to state apparatuses, etc – contribute to what
can be called the “nonprofit industrial complex,” or NPIC.
NPIC and the buffer zone strategy
Dylan Rodriguez defines the NPIC as “the set of symbiotic relationships that link
together political and financial technologies of state and owning-class proctorship and
surveillance over public political intercourse, including and especially progressive and
leftist social movements, since about the mid-1970’s.”
In a post-COINTELPRO era, the particular problematic with the nonprofit industry is the
way organizations are utilized by ruling-class elites to surveil, subvert, pacify, and
neutralize potentially-radical social movements on the grassroots level.
One of the ways the ruling-class accomplishes this objective is by deploying the
“buffer-zone strategy.” The buffer zone strategy refers to a mechanism for stratifying
people into a number of occupations that carry out the agenda of the ruling class.
To understand how the buffer zone strategy operates in practice we have to consider
the structural composition of social hierarchies in a globalized neoliberal economy,
which can be thought of as an intricate set of stratified power relations based on
systems of domination and subjugation. Andrea Smith offers a comprehensive
instrument for thinking of political and economic power, describing US’ current
political/economic structure as a pyramid.

14

“In the United States, 1 percent of the population controls about 47 percent of the net
financial wealth, and the next 19 percent of the population controls another 44 percent.
That leaves 80 percent of the population with just 9 percent of the remaining financial
wealth.”
While this snapshot is not definitive in describing the intricacies of power relations in the
US, it does help us understand the vast differences in social and economic inequality.
The top 1% make up the elite, owning-class; the next 19% make up the
professional/managerial classes; and the bottom 80% is made up of middle and
working-class peoples, in addition to those impoverished due to unemployment,
homelessness, and the like.
Smith continues, “The result is that large numbers of people in the United States spend
most of our time trying to get enough money to feed, house, clothe, and otherwise
support ourselves and our families, and many end up without adequate housing food,
health care, work, or educational opportunities.”
The buffer zone is a stratification strategy for the ruling class to maintain a degree of
separation between themselves and those on the lower end of the pyramid. To avoid
becoming the objects of people’s anger, elites have utilized “legal, educational, and
professional systems to create a network of occupation, careers, and professions to
deal directly with the rest of the population.”
There are three primary functions of this buffer zone. The first is taking care of people
located at the bottom of the power pyramid. The second to keep hope alive by
distributing opportunities for a few people to become better off financially. And the third
function of jobs in the buffer zone is to maintain the system by controlling those who
want to make changes.
We can easily locate the NPIC within this portrait. Nonprofits act as organizations that
recruit buffer zone agents from the groups of people demanding change of the system.
The strategy works as parasitic process of co-optation that integrates the leadership of
our communities into the bureaucracies of the buffer zone, separating the interests of
those leaders from the needs of the community.
In this sense, the nonprofit industry works as a missionary project that carries out the
neocolonial desires of white, financial elites. Though, there’s still the question – how do
the dynamics of such a project manifest within a particular locality? In thinking of spatial

15
politics, power relations, and systems of domination, it is critical to investigate the
intricacies of how nonprofits operate in the political-economy of an urban city.
Providence’s nonprofit industry
To get a full picture of Providence’s current political economy, we must focus in on the
sprawling nonprofit industry that has developed in the city throughout the past several
decades. By no means an outlier to global trends, the proliferation of nonprofit
organizations in Rhode Island is still astounding. Rhode Island ranks 8th among states
that have the highest number of nonprofit organizations per capita.
With 47.2 501(c)(3) organizations per 10,000 people, nonprofits employ more than 18
percent of Rhode Island’s labor force, tying us with New York as the states with the
highest percentage of people working at nonprofits. This includes hospitals, universities,
social service agencies, etc. Among the largest employers in the state, one of the most
notable “nonprofit” enterprises is Brown University.
As a political and economic entity, Brown University needs to be viewed as an institution
that maintains and exerts a great level of power over the city. Legally listed as a
nonprofit agency whose asset worth is $4.2 billion, the Ivy League school plays no
minor role in influencing how power in Providence operates. Brown and its alums have,
for decades, been major actors in shaping the political, social, and territorial landscape
of the city for decades.
It’s no secret nor surprise that a sizable litter of lawyers, lobbyists, congressmen,
bankers, public administrators, and real estate developers throughout Rhode Island all
call Brown their alma mater.
But also indicative of Brown University’s heavy influence, is the city’s grassroots
organizing realm along with the institutional-left. As a hotbed for idealistic
activist-minded students, the University has played a major role in exporting bodies who
have gone on to build the skeletal structure of Providence’s local nonprofit industry.
Stuffing the buffer zone
I have already gone to great lengths to illustrate Brown University’s role as a school that
trains students to find their place within white civil society and reproduce the violent
social relations that uphold and maintain global capitalism. In local context, the
University acts as a funnel to export students and alumni into buffer zone occupations –

16
effectively rendering them into missionaries that are enabled to act on embedded
neocolonial logics of philanthropy and social service.
Incorporated into the bureaucracies of the buffer zone, Brown students and alumni
through nonprofit work have strongly shaped the cultural and political landscape in the
city for more than 15 years. Strongly resembling neocolonial missionary work, the
University lauds nonprofit work as a career path in which students can specialize and
develop their skills and expertise in. True to its mission, the University dedicates whole
centers and programs – such as the Swearer Center for Public Service – to connecting
students to community organizations throughout the city and state along with other
mechanisms (Teach for America, Americorps VISTA, etc.) that act as feeder-tubes into
buffer zone occupations.
A significant number of grassroots, community, labor, and youth development orgs
active in the city today have been started by Brown students in their activist phases and
since then have been administered by the same ilk. Those not directly founded by
Brown alumni, were founded by alumni of other Ivy League schools and maintain close
institutional relationships with those from Brown.
One only need to dig into historical archives to find that numerous influential nonprofit
organizations have consistently been initiated, led, or administered by Ivy League
students and alumni: Providence Student Union, the Institute for the Study and Practice
of Nonviolence, Rhode Island Communities for Justice, Rhode Island Urban Debate
League – and still the list continues.
Even left-oriented radical “social justice” grassroots organizations aren’t immune from
this trend: Direct Action for Rights and Equality, Providence Youth Student Movement,
Olneyville Neighborhood Association, and Rhode Island Jobs with Justice have all been
founded by Brown students.
These institutional-grassroots nonprofit organizations in particular act as incubators
within an activist sub-culture and function as a social net to catch eager, idealistic
students wanting to dip their toes into local organizing work. They hear about such and
such organization from a friend who knew a friend, volunteer the luxury of their time,
land an internship, or sometimes even establish a staff position for themselves.
The confluence of funneling patterns, interplay of social networks, and dependency on
volunteer labor and philanthropic-funding serve to uphold the pillars of white civil society
by reproducing and maintaining parasitic social relationships. As community work

17
becomes nonprofit work through processes of co-optation, grassroots efforts get
subsumed into the machinations of the nonprofit industrial complex, binding
organizations to function as managers of community dissent thus derailing any potential
for legitimate resistance.
In subsequent posts I’ll be aiming to tease out critical questions for developing new
methods and means of resistance outside of the NPIC in the city. My goal is to
contribute towards thoughts for untethering local community and labor struggles from
parasitic neocolonial institutions.
STEPS TOWARDS DISMANTLING BROWN UNIVERSITY:
– Plan and organize a general insurrection to expropriate all resources, especially
land, belonging to the University
– Abolish the Brown Corporation, Department of Public Safety, and all formal
administrative bodies of the University
– Institute open-admissions and free tuition for Rhode Island residents and all
descendants of former enslaved peoples across the hemisphere
—Sources that influenced this analytical piece:
– Racial/Colonial Genocide and the “Neoliberal Academy”: In Excess of a Problematic,
Dylan Rodriguez
– The Revolution Will Not Be Funded: Beyond the Non-Profit Industrial Complex, edited
by INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence
– How Harvard Rules: Reason in the Service of Empire, edited by John Trumpbour
– Rebel Cities: From the Right to the City to the Urban Revolution, David Harvey
– Discussions with close compas impacted by Brown University and the non-profit
industrial complex

18

Thoughts on Neocolonial Providence
by Sani Scott
Brown is not unique. It is part of a larger collective of Higher-Ed institutions that asserts
itself in and displaces communities – namely communities of color. I am so glad Servius
G brings this to light in their pointed analytical piece, Neocolonial Providence.
I believe it is a necessary read and should be circulated widely among the Brown
community.
As a scholar who is a Black woman, I initially contentions with the piece – not for its
content, but because I felt targeted for even being affiliated with Brown. So, like most
people would, I deflected my guilt.
I am not proud of this, but I took personal offense to Servius’ critiques and neglected to
fully acknowledge the structural issues they highlight in this piece. It was upon reading
Neocolonial Providence for a second time at the urging of a co-researcher that Iwas
able to begin the process of reconciling my Brown privilege with my marginalized
identities.
Here’s a word of advice if you find yourself getting all in your feelings and defensive like
I did:
Despite your social/critical consciousness, advocacy and activism at Brown, you are
complicit in maintaining neocolonial Providence.
Don’t deny that. So if you are truly “‘bout it ‘bout it,” dedicate your time here to
dismantling the master’s house with the master’s tools. Interpret that as you will. That’s
how I choose to make up for being complicit.
Well, that’s me thinking out loud. Bravo to the author for writing such a
thought-provoking piece.
Onward and Upward,
Sani Scott

19

“Somebody wrote in the Burn Brown book that I’m lying about being a part
of the proletariat, but I can’t help it if I’m a bootlicking economist that works
at the US Federal Reserve and put profit over the lives of students and
community members during a pandemic!”
– Christina Paxson

20

“If they don’t have any education, then, they’re nowhere. You dig what I’m
saying? You nowhere. Because you don’t even know why they doing what
they doing. You be, you might get caught up in the emotionalist, uh, you
understand me? You might, you know, you done caught up, and caught
being poor, and they want something. And then, if they’re not educated,
they’ll want more, and before you know it, they’ll be capitalist, and before
you know it we’d have Negro imperialists.”
– Fred Hampton

21

“We can not fight for our rights and our history as well as future until we are
armed with weapons of criticism and dedicated consciousness.”
– Edward W. Said

22
 
(Re)Distribution
Requirements

A Guide to Institutional Fundraising at Brown University
Compiled by Tali Ginsburg 2018.5

Sneak Peak // Navigation
Part 1: Context, Positionality, and Abolition:
Why fundraising?
Why at Brown?
The money trail/mapping the corporation
The Master’s Tools?
What now?
Part 2: Fundraising Strategies:
Strategy 1: Event planning on campus
Tips, Tricks, and Budgets
Strategy 2: Using student groups
Strategy 3: Grants, aka $$ with no strings
Tips, Tricks, and Buzzwords
Tips, Tricks, and Hacks
Final guidelines and parting thoughts
Sources and highly recommended readings

This is a zine about institutional fundraising, specifically at Brown University, because
that’s the place I’m writing from. I’m also writing from the position of being white, class
privileged, queer, transmasculine/non-binary, Jewish, and able-bodied, if not always
able-minded. I want to start with that because that’s where I start and where I stand.
I also come from a family of academic achievers. I was taught from a young age that
universities were benevolent institutions outside of other systems. In the offices where I
played, it seemed knowledge was magically made the same way my dad’s job as a
professor magically made money. His job enabled me to go to the University of
Chicago’s elite feeder high school, which gave me a gateway to admission to the Ivy
League. Today, I take up space at an institution that both was and wasn’t built for me,
but certainly operates in my benefit now.
This zine comes from my own experiences with institutional fundraising, and some of
the Brown-specific tips and tricks I’ve been taught along the way. It is limited in all the
ways you might expect it to be limited, and probably even a few more. But I hope it’s
helpful in thinking through one way to leverage the specific type of privilege that comes
from being a student at an institution like Brown. There’s a million other ways—I like

23
this one because it’s tangible, it’s in my lane, and it works through time-sensitive access
to a wild amount of resources.
The BIGGEST THANKS and credit to Bethlehem Desta, who not only came up with the
idea behind this zine and edited every word, but has also been my fundraising buddy
and inspiration every step along the way. Biggest thanks also to Professor Elena Shih,
for making everything (and I mean everything) happen.
“Criticality is the seeing of the window and the frame and the smudges on the glass, as
well as the landscape, cityscape, or humanscape outside the window. Criticality is the
seeing of our own seeing, accounting for our own position, stance, perspective, history,
infrastructure, substructure. Criticality is not optional.” – The Antena Collaborative, “A
Manifesto for Discomfortable Writing”

Why Fundraising?
First, let’s get this out of the way: fundraising IS activism. Sometimes our image of
activism is only megaphones and marches. But those megaphones cost money, and
most important work happens behind the scenes anyway. This is especially true for
folks with any kind or kinds of privilege, where being invisible and helpful is just that helpful. Fundraising is an easy way to be materially supportive and accountable to the
movements happening all around us.
Fundraising is also one form of redistribution. And redistribution is exactly where people
with class and/or education privilege are usefully positioned to be, precisely because of
our access to wealthy networks and institutions. If we’re honest about where we are and
what access we have, we can work quietly towards redistribution without centering
ourselves or alerting the institution. And easily move tens of thousands of dollars along
the way.
In The Reorder of Things, Roderick Ferguson proposes that the University operates in a
triad with capital and the state. In other words, the university is not neutral, and in fact
enables and perpetuates the violence of settler-colonialism and systems of racial
capitalism. At 38 colleges across the country, including Brown, more students come
from the top 1% than from the bottom 60% of the income scale. A lot of redistribution
needs to happen in higher education.

Why at Brown?
Because of ongoing settler colonialism- Brown is built on stolen
Wampanoag-Narragansett land. Indigenous land struggles continue in and around the

24
University. The Pokanoket encampment at the start of the 2017 school year
demonstrated that, in the words of Eve Tuck and K. Wayne Yang, “decolonization is not
a metaphor.”
Because Brown was built by slaves. BROWN WAS BUILT BY SLAVES, and is named
after a slave owner. Approximately thirty members of the first Brown Corporation owned
or captained slave ships. Brown resides in a state officially known as Rhode Island and
the Providence Plantations, and from here, at least 2/3rds of North American
slave-trading voyages launched each year. Brown has not paid reparations.
Because Brown is a force of gentrification in Providence. Having actively displaced a
Cape Verdean community in Fox Point. Brown continues to displace people in the
Jewelry District (currently being rebranded as the “Knowledge District”) and beyond.
Because 38% of Brown’s property is tax exempt as a non-profit. Brown is also the
largest landowner in Rhode Island, so the property tax exemption built into its charter
has enormous effects on the local tax base. Brown also dominates the city’s non-profit
sector in other ways, such as by placing its graduates in administrative roles across the
state and serving as a resource gatekeeper.
Because Brown reproduces class structures through a combination of educational
elitism and strong ties to capital. More than half of the members that make up the
Corporation of Brown University’s Board of Trustees hold occupations in global finance
and other major economic industries.

The Money Trail//Mapping the Corporation
In 2017, Brown’s endowment was about 3.5 billion dollars. But their total assets are
closer to 5 billion.

25

What is the Brown Corporation anyway?
The authority and responsibilities of the Brown Corporation are set out in the 1764
Charter. The Corporation selects the president, sets the budget, tuition and fees,
establishes policies and strategic plans, appoints faculty and senior administrative
officers, and accept gifts and naming opportunities. The full corporation meets just three
times a year. During the rest of the year, many of them are connecting to other
corporations and making sure business as usual continues across the world. Most of
them are graduates of Brown (marked by class year).

The Brown Corporation
*** Power map of university ***

The Master’s Tools?
Audre Lorde: “The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.”
Antena: “The master’s house began to collapse on its own long ago. Use any and all
tools you can get your hands on and speed the process. Demolish the master’s house
carefully enough to recycle the building materials and make tiny houses for everybody.
With any leftover materials, we’ll make small books.”
Resource Redistribution guide at Williams College: “You can’t use the master’s tools.
But you can use the master’s money.”
So let’s operate from the premise that the institution as we know it needs to be
abolished. What now?
For me, this is where fundraising comes in. Single handedly, I can’t dismantle this
university (collectively we can, but still it’s very difficult). I can’t on my own significantly
shift the power dynamic between Brown and Providence, or make the corporation divest
from Israel or fossil fuels, or open up free admission to descendants of the enslaved
people who built this hill.
What I can do is organize and fundraise. I sometimes think the University is a set of
scales tipped so far in the direction of injustice it doesn’t even look like scales anymore.
But there are little bits of resources I can move to the other side. No, it won’t bring down
the institution. But it will, even in the tiniest of tiny ways, tip the scales.
Students have four years of access, give or take. After four years, you can’t apply to
UFunds grants, or get batKEYs (more on those later), and the university really no longer
cares about you at all unless you’re a donor. Students are mistreated by the University
all the time. But we also have immense power because the university is ~technically~

26
accountable to us, many of us have some spare time, and we have access to so much
that is denied to the rest of Providence.
NOTE: Some of the following strategies are 100% legit, some of them are more sketchy.
Do whatever you feel comfortable with. All of these take time, which is why it’s
especially important for students with class privilege to take these on.
NOTE: Talking about money can be uncomfortable. Asking for money can be
uncomfortable. Remember that what is a huge amount of money to an individual or a
grassroots organization is literally pocket change to a University with a $3.46 billion
endowment. You can be shameless.

Strategy 1: Event planning on campus
This is probably the easiest way to fundraise. The event itself really doesn’t matter too
much, so long as you are getting money to people with marginalized identities//groups
that are led by those directly affected by injustice.
Fundraising for events:
● University Grants- These are posted through UFunds and can give you a huge
boost towards making an event happen. Ex: Community Building Fund (up to
$5000).
● Academic Departments- the Watson institute requires a form but for everywhere
else if you send them an email they will throw a few hundred dollars at you just to
make you go away. Having a template email describing the event and asking
directly for financial support will usually get you between $100-$750. Ex: AMST,
ENVS, VISA, MCM, etc.
● Centers on campus- like departments, just an email is enough to get you a few
hundred dollars, with the exception of the CSREA, who require a co-sponsorship
request through their website. Keep in mind that centers and departments that
give you money become co-sponsors and usually have their own stipulations
about being included in advertising, etc. Ex: CSSJ, Pembroke, BCSC, SDWC,
LGBTQ Center, etc.
● Administrative offices- Places like the office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion
and the Office of Campus Life have unexpected funding pools you can pull from.
Extra points for using buzzwords in your email pitch.
● Having a job as an on campus programmer is also a great (and paid) way to
access and leverage funding for events. Just be really intentional about your
positionality when applying to these- if you don’t experience intersectional
oppression, probably don’t apply.
● Residential Life and RPLs - RPLs are given programming budgets for their units,
but most of the money doesn’t get used, which means you can often get quite a
lot of unaccountable money for events (provided you submit the proper
paperwork).

27

Generic event planning checklist. Have you:






Made a budget? (see next page)
Found an institutional home to consolidate funds, e.g. a department (with a BatKEY)
or student group (SAO account)?
Set up the event?
o Make sure the spaces you reserve are accessible. You can reserve spaces on
campus 25Live: https://25live.collegenet.com/brown/
o You can order food through the Student Activities Office webpage, under
Financial Services > Conducting Transactions > Food and Brown Dining
services. To order from an outside vendor (recommended) go to
https://dining.brown.edu/brown-first-outside-vendors/.
o Be in communication with all the the people participating in or setting up the
event about logistics and their needs.
Advertised?
o Make a facebook event and add everyone.
o Make a list of every vaguely relevant center, department, DUG, student group,
listserv, class, newsmedia, facebook page, etc. Emails are best directed to a
specific person and from someone with a personal connection, but a cold email
will do in a pinch. If a center has a newsletter, they often have a place on their
website where you can submit a blurb about your event.
o To submit to Today@Brown, go to https://today.brown.edu/ and navigate to
Submit Items.
o Featured Events is a listing which the University distributes to news outlets
across RI/southeastern MA. To have your event distributed, you first have to
add the event to http://events.brown.edu/. Then email
featured_events@brown.edu. Make sure to include a time, date, place, sponsor
information, contact person and a brief description in your submission.
o If you’re advertising to groups outside of Brown, make sure you are reaching
out sensitively and centering those groups in the space you create.

Tips, Tricks, and Budgets

28

Tip: You can fundraise extra by adding unnecessary things to a budget. Overestimate all
costs, add extra honoraria, and make up line items like videography or materials, then
funnel this money out through other “expenses” or honoraria to someone who has
agreed to distribute it.
Ex: We fundraised almost $8000 to bring CeCe McDonald to Brown in April 2018.
$5500 went directly to her, and another $500 went to LGBT books for prisoners through
an honoraria donated by Ren-yo Hwang, the Q&A moderator.

Strategy 2: Using student groups
* Another key way to get money off campus is through SAO funding for student groups.
If you’re part of a student group, you can fundraise for off campus events and have
departments, centers, and offices transfer money into your account (they don’t give you
the account number, so you have to connect the funder to the SAO office). Then you
can use that money for anything really. You can even start new real or fake student
groups for this. Go to https://www.brown.edu/campus-life/events/student-activities/.

29
* It’s a little harder to get money for events off campus, but if you can argue that it
makes the institution look good or benefits students, some of the on-campus event tips
will still work. For example, you can usually fundraise for transportation to a protest if
you argue that it’s an educational experience for students. It’s a harder sell, but still very
doable if you come as a student group.
* Reimbursements are key, so keep all receipts and be creative in what you charge to
the University. This is true for student groups, but also of things like individual travel
grants. For example, if you get into conferences, the university will pay for your travel
and you can find creative ways to get extra things reimbursed.
In Spring 2018, we fundraised almost $2000 for buses to get students to a Coalition of
Immokalee Workers Boycott Wendy’s protest in NYC by getting departments to put
money in the Student Labor Alliance account, then having SLA donate it to a
youcaring.org page.

Strategy 3: Grants, aka $$ with no strings
There are a ton of sources of fundraising on campus that have zero accountability for
what you do with the money. Some examples include:
$
$
$
$

Brown Arts Initiative (up to $1000)
Research @ Brown (up to $500)
Explore/Expand Grants (up to $500)
Jobs where you log hours through workday (log a set amount of extra hours and
commit to giving it away at the end of the semester—this requires a chill boss,
and works especially well with TA jobs)
$ Random competitions and events Brown puts on for “social good,” like BSA
Inspire Week or the Swearer Center Social Innovation Fellowship. You can
pretend to innovate while really giving this money to the people already doing the
work, or you can actually come up with a project you feel good about.
The projects you propose can be real or not. Regardless, make sure the money goes
OUT of the institution and to organizations or people in the community who are doing
radical work (or just who need it).
A friend and I are using the Social Innovation Fellowship to make a Queer/Trans porn
podcast and pay sex workers/erotica writers and performers. You can capitalize on
things like pinkwashing or greenwashing at certain moments, just be aware that the
university is using you as much as you are using them.

Tips, Tricks, and Buzzwords
One of the ways students have access isn’t just through proximity to capital. It’s also
through proximity to markers of class, even if we don’t come from moneyed

30
backgrounds. This means we know the kind of language the University wants to hear.
Fundraising is all about making whatever it is sound like it will benefit the institution
and/or the students. It might make you want to vomit, but buzzwords can help here.
Words like:
intersectionality

Diversity and inclusion

student engagement
marginalized identities

campus dialogue
new student partnerships

new community partnerships

leadership

opening possibilities

social justice

building community

new synergies

diverse array

engaged scholarship

innovation/social innovation

service

equity

entrepreneurship

“To make us strangers in a place we thought was home. To find spaces for listening
inside strangeness.” – The Antena Collaborative, A Manifesto for Discomfortable Writing

Tips, Tricks, and Hacks
UFUNDS
Brown regularly posts all the money things you can apply for on this website. All of this
money is going to be given out anyway, so it might as well go to you and you might as
well funnel it somewhere good! Apply to everything that is remotely related to anything,
except for things that are explicitly for low-income students if you’re not a low-income
student. Once you’ve done a few, you can plug and chug and churn these out pretty
fast. This is also where research $$ is given out, which you can use to pay people for
interviews (regardless of whether you actually interview them or not).
PRINTING
Brown students get a printing allotment that we usually can’t use up. If you’re involved in
local organizations, printing things is a huge help. If you run out of money, there’s also
free printers in the UEL, the GeoChem computer lab (password geology), and probably

31
a few other places I don’t know of. Brown Design Workshop and the Multimedia Lab
offer short trainings that can also give you access to laser printing, fine art printing
(which gives you an extra $150 printing budget), and more.
STRUCTURAL POSITIONS
Take one for the team. Apply to the University Resource Committee in the office of the
Provost, the Undergraduate Finance Board, anywhere else where money is controlled.
Open up what you can, where you can.
CONCENTRATIONS
If your concentration is housed within Watson, you can get bank for anything. Milk that
for all it’s worth. But wherever you are, get to know your department. Concentrations
like American and Ethnic Studies tend to have professors who will help out, but keep in
mind that professors of color and especially women of color are also often
overburdened by the institution with both mentorship and political work.
WHISPER NETWORK
This is great to find professors who might be down to help you out with a departmental
code where you can consolidate fundraising for events (also known as a batKEY). The
whisper network is also just great for ideas of what to fundraise for and how- are there
organizations or movements your friends are involved with that need money?
PARTIES!
Fundraising can also be fun, like throwing basement parties and charging admission.
Just make sure it’s sliding scale accessible and don’t assume every student has
money/comes from wealth. Also, have intentionality statements around your party
having zero tolerance for racism, sexism, xenophobia, etc. You can also party plan
using the Safe OUTside the System Safe Party Toolkit created by the Audre Lorde
Project: http://bit.ly/SafePartyToolkit. There’s also a zine:
http://bit.ly/SafePartyToolkitZine!

Final guidelines and parting thoughts
Security: If you’re talking about redistribution, or embezzlement, or planning anything
really, talk over signal. Signal is an encrypted messaging app so your messages can’t
be tracked. Also, have a non-Brown email you can use so the corporation can’t watch
you.
Accountability: Be clear and transparent about your capacity- it’s much better to say no
than to ignore things because you are too stressed to deal with them (we’ve all been
there). Always stay accountable to who and what you are fundraising for. This means

32
being in relationship. This means not demanding people use the money in any particular
way. This means listening, listening, listening.
Community: Nothing happens alone. Be intentional about reaching out to the right
people from the beginning and stay in touch- this means relevant student groups and
people you might not already know. Give people ownership over projects that affect
them, but be careful not to tokenize people you assume would be interested. Make sure
that groups and spaces are socially open to new people, and constantly challenge
dynamics within groups of anti-blackness, sexism, cissexism, classism, ableism,
colorism, etc.
Sustainability: Share knowledge and pool skills! Record information so you can pass it
along and the same lessons don’t have to be learned over and over again. Build
community. Write together, throw parties together, put on events together, share other
ways of taking money from the institution with each other so we can spread like a
swarm of bees and annoy the university with all our many tiny stings.

Sources and highly recommended readings
About Brown University
Brown University Steering Committee on Slavery and Justice. Slavery and Justice.
Brown University, 18 Oct. 2006.
http://www.brown.edu/Research/Slavery_Justice/report/index.html.
(Micro)aggressions at Brown PAR Team. “Brown University Disorientation Guide 2015 2016.” Issuu, 30 Apr. 2015, https://issuu. com
/disorientationatbrown/docs/disorientation_guide_15-16__2_.
Young, Phoebe. (Re)Imagining Brown 250+: Histories of Violence in the Making of an
American University. Brown University, Apr. 2017.
About The Colonial University/the Academic Industrial Complex
Aisch, Gregor, et al. “Some Colleges Have More Students From the Top 1 Percent Than
the Bottom 60. Find Yours.” The New York Times, 19 Jan. 2017, p. A3.
Ferguson, Roderick A. The Reorder of Things: The University and Its Pedagogies of
Minority Difference. University Of Minnesota Press, 2012.
paperson, la. A Third University Is Possible. University of Minnesota Press, 2017.
Yee, Jessica, ed. Feminism for Real: Deconstructing the Academic Industrial Complex
of Feminism. Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, 2011.

33
Other Sources
Antena. “A Manifesto for Discomfortable Writing.” Antena,
http://antenaantena.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/discomfortable_ eng.pdf.
Accessed 23 Apr. 2018.
Incite! Women of Color Against Violence. The Revolution Will Not Be Funded: Beyond
the Non-Profit Industrial Complex. Duke University Press, 2017.
Pittelman, Karen. Classified: How to Stop Hiding Your Privilege and Use It for Social
Change. Resource Generation, Soft Skull Press, 2005.
And most importantly, Bethlehem Desta’s brilliance, and so many other friends who
have taught me so much along the way.

Redistribution brainstorm//workspace
Who can you think of who might want to get some $$ from Brown? Do you already have
a relationship with that person/organization?

Do you have any relationships with people in the institution who might be helpful, e.g.
faculty in a relevant department, people who work at centers, administrators?

What is posted in UFunds right now that you could use to fundraise?

What is your capacity?

34

Hijacking the University
There are a ton of institutional channels that students can take advantage of to secure
decision-making power, access to information, programming budgets, personal salaries,
etc. Infiltrate and exploit these institutional channels, and do your best to insert
transformative and radical politics in as many ways as you can.
RPLs (MPCs, WPCs, RPCs, CAs) - upperclassmen that live in Residence Halls who
provide support for students living in their halls. The equivalent of most schools’ RA
positions. The Residential Life program is the only program that ALL undergraduates at
Brown experience.
● Decent programming budgets.
● Email rosters of first-year residents - valuable for sending mass email blasts to
large segments of the student body.1
● RPLs play a significant role in orientation, especially when it comes to the
“Engaging Diversity” and “Culture of Consent” sessions. These are two of the
only presentations that (theoretically) every Brown student will see. Thus, these
sessions are great opportunities for disseminating important information and
shifting campus culture.
Student Government - the Undergraduate Council of Students (UCS) is a body of
students (elected and non-elected) that are meant to liaise between the student body
and Administration.
● Select members of UCS interface regularly with senior administrators.
● UCS is relatively well-equipped to generate institutional support for student
projects.
● Membership and voting power are relatively easy to ascertain in UCS.
● UCS oversees the appointment of students to a number of important advisory
boards and committees.
● Other student government bodies include the Graduate Student Council (GSC)
and the Medical Student Senate (MSS).
GISPs - GISPs (Group Independent Study Projects) are essentially classes that are
created and actualized by students! GISPs (as well as other kinds of independent study
projects like DISPs, GLISPs, etc.) are proposed to and approved by the Curricular
Resource Center.

1

The MPC cohort should have access to all freshman emails. If rosters are pooled and collected
year-to-year, folks in the program could create a listserv of most of the students that go to Brown.

35
● A great way to get academic credit for doing archival and investigative work.
● Depending on your faculty sponsor, GISPs can be a lot less stress than regular
classes.
● This disorientation guide is the result of a GISP!
Formation of Academic Departments, Concentrations, and Tracks - academic
departments house a set of faculty that teach and do research related to a particular
discipline (i.e. American Studies, Political Science, Urban Studies). Historically, there
has been some success in advocating for the existence of new departments. One of the
most famous examples is a strike led by the Third World Liberation Front in 1968, which
led to the establishment of an Ethnic Studies department at San Francisco State
University. In 1968, students at Brown staged a year-long protest for an Ethnic Studies
Department and were only granted a concentration in 1996. Concentrations and tracks
within concentrations are options available for a student’s academic focus.
● Forming new academic departments...
○ creates an institutional entity that will outlive student turnover. (This is only
really helpful if the folks who became a part of the department are
trustworthy and have decent politics.)
○ obligates the university to dedicate resources to work taking place in said
department. This creates the possibility of pushing transformative/radical
research agendas.
○ creates salaried positions that tend to go to certain demographics of
people. For example, if a trans studies department were to be created, it’s
likely that many of the faculty that would be hired and paid would be trans.
○ can increase the variety of anti-oppressive course offerings (e.g.
Palestinian Liberation and Anti-Imperialism, We Demand: Histories of
Student Actvisim, How Brown Works).
● Concentrations and tracks...
○ create opportunities for students to receive credit for research and study in
specific fields of interest (e.g. an Abolitionist Studies concentration or a
trans studies track within the Gender and Sexuality Studies
concentration). See the Timeline of Student Environmental Activism to
learn more about the formation of the Environment and Inequality Track!
Hiring Committees - ad hoc committees charged with filling available positions at the
university. Hiring committees typically consist of administrators, faculty, staff, and
students. (Alumni might also be included depending on the position.)
● Allows students to advocate for applicants with radical politics as well as
applicants who are from underrepresented groups (ideally both)!

36

Advisory Boards and Committees - while the purpose and makeup of these
committees can vary, they’re often composed of a mix of students, staff, and faculty and
are charged with providing reports or recommendations to certain offices or individuals
regarding specific topics. Examples include the Advisory Committee on Corporate
Responsibility in Investment Policy (ACCRIP), the BCSC Student Advisory Board
(SAB), the Brown University Community Council (BUCC), the University Resources
Committee (URC), and the Steering Committee on Slavery and Justice.
● While this will depend on their charge, these committees often have a significant
impact on the creation, maintenance, and alteration of policy at the university.
● Some of the information that is disclosed during the meetings is private, which
means that you can (and should) make it not private. Access to private
information is often valuable for political organizing and can be leveraged in the
interest of transformative and radical politics. Further, while an individual’s right to
privacy is an important facet of ensuring one's safety, health, and wellbeing,
policies of privacy implemented by the university are often no more than a
bureaucratic attempt to protect the interests of the university - not its constituents
or stakeholders at the margins.
● Regardless of the composition of the committee, members of the committee can
(threaten to) publish vetoes2 of the committee's decisions in the BDH (or other
relevant publication) so that the Brown community is aware that the committee is
ignoring student voices.
BUDS - BUDS (short for Brown Undergraduate Dining Services). Folks employed by
BUDS work in the dining halls at Brown.
● You can claim reparations by liberating food for you or other folks who may be
facing food insecurity (including folks who don’t attend the university). Just
kidding… stealing isn’t cool. It’s worth noting that this is only worthwhile if
workers’ wages aren’t impacted.
Student Groups - organizations on campus that convene around some common
purpose, interest, or activity. They can have varying affiliations and relationships to the
university. For example, official undergraduate groups must be registered as such with
UCS.
● Clout. Becoming a part of the E-board within certain organizations means that
you can play a significant role in the direction of the organization and the ways

2

A veto is an op-ed or statement from members of a committee that invalidates and delegitimizes the
committee’s official actions.

37
that it engages issues of social and economic justice. This is especially true for
organizations that are perceived as speaking for an entire community.
● Access to UFB money (category 1 groups get no money, category 2 groups get
$200 baseline funding, and category 3 groups get $200 baseline funding and the
ability to submit budget requests).
Programmers @ Student Centers - student positions that involve planning events on
campus with budgets that are provided by the relevant centers (i.e. LGBTQ Center
Program Coordinator, Sarah Doyle Center Program Coordinator).
● Can re-direct money to marginalized folks in the Providence community through
honorariums.
● Can use programming budgets to push radical political agendas.
● Can bring folks to campus that can develop the knowledge and skills of students,
staff, and faculty.
Orientation Program Coordinator Positions - orientation programs are programs that
students take part in at the beginning of their time at Brown. Often students are
responsible for coordinating said programs.
● Recruitment! You can encourage students to participate in student groups that
are doing important work.
● Orientation is a space where freshmen are first introduced to campus culture.
Thus, depending on the information you provide and the politics you present as
“normal,” campus culture can be shifted in ways that benefit political discourse,
student relationships, and organizing culture. For example, during Mosaic+, an
emphasis could be placed on how computer science can be used to assist
political organizing.
Teaching Assistants - many of the classes that Brown offers have Teaching Assistants
(or TAs) who are available to provide extra support or instruction for the students in the
class.
● TAs have the opportunity to insert radical politics into the classroom in a number
of ways: making announcements about important events or actions on campus
and in the Providence community, highlighting student groups doing important
political work, altering course content, challenging harmful language or
stereotypes, facilitating the creation of study groups for marginalized students,
and providing support for marginalized students in the classroom.
● In the spirit of free information, TAs might also have access to banks of current
and/or previous course material that they can post online so that folks who don’t

38
have access to post-secondary education can continue to educate themselves
freely.
● If large actions or demonstrations take place, TAs can often be supportive by
offering notes, alternatively-located office hours/TA help sessions, etc.
Grants, Grants, Grants - grants are sums of money that the university provides to
members of the community for a range of academic, social, and creative endeavors.
Many of the grants that the university offers can be found on U-Funds.
● The money is often unaccountable.
● See Tali’s guide to institutional fundraising at Brown for more info!
Subscriptions, Rentals, and Building Access - there are so many different resources
that we have access to at Brown, and in general, we don’t use most of them. By giving
folks who don’t attend Brown your online login information or ID card, you can help to
distribute unused resources to folks in Providence who can put them to good use!
● Examples: free software, academic database subscriptions, library access, tools
and machinery at the Brown Design Workshop (BDW), multimedia technology
and software at the Multimedia Labs (MML), tech equipment rentals (e.g. laptops,
cameras, projectors, speakers, etc.) at the IT Service Center, HBO Go (which
can be accessed off campus, where Philo cannot), printing.
● In the interest of the freedom of information and education, you can download
and redistribute course content and/or otherwise expensive academic writing to
folks who wouldn’t normally be able to afford it.
● Two-factor authentication can present a problem for folks who are using your
Banner username and password to access different online resources, but you
are actually able to generate a set of permanent backup codes that can be
entered instead of requiring two-factor.
Depending on your creativity and willingness, any student position on campus (paid or
unpaid) can provide some amount of institutional power. Other positions available on
campus include department assistants, student callers for the Advancement Office, tour
guides, team captains, etc. Think about new and creative ways that you might be able
to leverage these positions and the ones listed above.

39

“One has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.”
– Martin Luther King Jr.

40

“The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.”
– Audre Lorde

41
Navigating the academic left as a critical student:
Brown is known for its open curriculum and its progressive values, and it’s true that
many professors on campus – in Africana Studies, Ethnic Studies, American Studies,
and so on – are doing work that is transformative and perhaps even revolutionary. If the
university is a place where power accrues through knowledge production, then there
must also be a way to redistribute power radically through those same practices of
study and teaching.
In their book The Undercommons, Stefano Harney and Fred Moten write: “It cannot be
denied that the university is a place of refuge, and it cannot be accepted that the
university is a place of enlightenment. In the face of these conditions one can only
sneak into the university and steal what one can.” In this guide we hope to highlight the
university’s material conditions, as a capitalist institution funded by local exploitation and
student debt, but we also want to think about how we can take advantage of the
university as fundamentally a place of study and teaching (even as we sow the seeds of
its abolition).
The essay that follows, an argument for critical Muslim studies, demonstrates how
students might use the power and credibility they access through Brown to build
towards decolonial knowledge production, and what that knowledge means for
communities in struggle. We invite folks to think about the ways that the introduction of
a department like critical Muslim studies might be understood within a framework of the
hijacking and infilitrating of the university.

Critical University Studies: Pushing for Decolonial Disciplines Within
Western Academia
An Argument for Critical Muslim Studies By Amara Majeed
This argument for Critical Muslim Studies discipline within Western academia,
specifically, in the pre-existing field of American Studies, is part of my broader vision for
Critical University Studies--to posit, within Western academia, decolonial disciplines that
unsettle white, liberal, secularism as normative. Such seemingly disparate disciplines
can intersect and coalesce in unique ways, cultivating solidarity that extends far beyond
the confines of the academy. This introduces my argument of not only pushing for
Critical Muslim Studies within Western academia under the discipline of American
Studies, but also, to push for Critical Hawai’ian Studies within this same discipline. The

42
importance of the former is prefaced by Muslims as a people afflicted by the American
imperial project. Given that Hawai’ians are a prime example of a people affected by this
same empire, and that Critical Hawai’ian Studies is an emergent disciple, my push to
integrate and bolster both Critical Muslim Studies and Critical Hawai’ian Studies into the
American Studies field seeks to challenge American empire and to center the
scholarship of and reclaim the narratives of indigenous peoples and the victims of the
American imperial project. In the broader endeavor of Critical University Studies, this
argument seeks to promote critical, decolonial projects within Western academia, and
to create solidarity amongst such projects, in the service of achieving our collective
liberation.
Upon coming to Brown, I was quite keen to critically understand and engage with
my identity as a Muslim through academia. I understood Brown to be an epicenter of
decolonial thought and deconstructive thinking that displaced secularism as the default
understanding of the world; because of this, I was extremely eager to take such courses
that would allow me to develop a framework that challenged dominant Western
paradigms. However, upon taking courses on Islam and Muslims here, I have come
away very dissatisfied. I have found that secularism is not deconstructed as the primary
modality through which Islam and Muslims are understood. As a result, this plays into
Islamophobic and Orientalist tropes about Muslims, and leaves Muslim students feeling
undermined and discriminated against in the classroom setting. Upon bringing these
concerns to faculty members, I was belittled, and was castigated as though I was
attempting to impose an conservative, Orthodox Islamic agenda in a way that was both
dogmatic and anti-intellectual. In contradistinction, my argument was absolutely
constructed with an intellectual framework: I was building upon ideas of past decolonial
scholars, such as Talal Asad and Saba Mahmood, to argue that the way that Islam and
Muslims are approached at Brown, or, more precisely, the Western, secular, liberal
academic institution--is Westoxified, and fails to deconstruct secularism in
understanding these subjects.
Feeling completely dissatisfied and dejected, I decided to take advantage of
Brown’s institutional support of independent intellectual pursuits in the service of
challenging this normative paradigm of approaching Islam and Muslims in Western
academia. As a result, I designed and taught a Brown-accredited course on the life of
Prophet Muhammad. In addition to critically studying his biography, this course
investigated how Muslim societies over time have reconfigured his lifetime in
constructing what is normatively and uncritically considered “Islamic.” This course took
an anti-colonial approach and displaced normative secular frameworks, analyzed lived
Islam in a way that challenged the Orientalist gaze, and nevertheless
grappled with difficult issues of patriarchy, anti-blackness, and slavery in Islamic history

43
and contemporary lived Islam. Ultimately, this course was majorly successful: not only
did it provide similarly frustrated Muslim students with a course that problematized
dominant paradigms, but also, it served as a modality of resistance for many of these
students during a time that blatant Islamophobia was normalized in the wake of Trump’s
victory. Upon realizing what this course meant for Muslim students, as well as the type
of decolonial scholars and scholarship that I believed could be generated by
approaching Islam and Muslims in this way, I decided to continue to create and teach
accredited courses on these subjects.
I ultimately designed two more courses: one explores a particular strand of
Islamic jurisprudential thought, and investigates reasons that Muslim societies have
canonized particular forms of Islamic legal orthodoxy. The other course investigates
intimacies between mass incarceration of black Muslims in the U.S. and the imperial
imprisonment of Muslims in Guantanamo, and draws conclusions about cartographies
of U.S. power. This includes a component of prison visitations with a black Muslim
prison chaplain. The works of Sohail Daulatzai will be used as a framework for this
course. I eventually designed an Islamic Studies degree that included the courses that I
designed, in addition to decolonial methodological courses that I had taken during my
time at Brown. Lastly, I began petitioning the university administration to hire more
Muslim faculty to teach about Islam, to minimize Orientalist and Islamophobic biases
that may result from someone without the background. I hope that these combined
efforts--creating and teaching classes on Islam and Muslims, designing and
popularizing an Islamic Studies degree, and hiring more Muslim faculty--will plant the
seeds for an Islamic Studies department at Brown that revolutionizes the way Islam and
Muslims are approached at the Western, secular, liberal institution. I am coordinating
with underclassmen on continuing these efforts upon my graduation.
At this point, I have provided some rather personal background as to why I, a
future Muslim scholar with a specialization in a decolonial approach to Islam and
Muslims, have a vested interest in the emergence, development, and success of a
disciple that promotes a decolonial understanding Islam and Muslims in the way that I
have previously alluded to. The purpose of this work is to make an argument for a field
of Critical Muslim Studies in Western academia, specifically in the disciple of American
Studies. The importance of this is prefaced by Muslims as a people afflicted by the
American imperial project. Given that Hawai’ians are a prime example of a people
affected by this same empire, and that Critical Hawai’ian Studies is an emergent
disciple, my push to integrate and bolster both Critical Muslim Studies and Critical
Hawai’ian Studies into the American Studies field seeks to challenge American empire
and to center the scholarship of and reclaim the narratives of indigenous peoples and
the victims of the American imperial project. As this is simply an introduction, I will
provide a brief summary and exploration of this broader argument, while investigating

44
certain intimacies between the field of Critical Indigenous Studies and Critical Muslim
Studies. This latter investigation, which will elucidate how Critical Indigenous Studies,
specifically Critical Hawai’ian Studies, has influenced me in my intended development of
the field of Critical Muslim Studies, will allow me to construct a foundation that
reconceptualizes cross-disciplinary practices of resistance and resurgence in the
Western academy in a way that draws upon the indigenous futuristic concept of the
existence of a plurality of worlds.
For the past two semesters, I took two courses taught by Professor Mary Baker
on Critical Hawai’ian/ Critical Indigenous Studies. I certainly did not expect any
inspiration for the
development of Critical Muslim Studies: I was simply taking it to fulfill a concentration
requirement. However, unbeknownst to me at the time, I would come to be so
profoundly moved by a prolific tradition in which humility, generosity, and compassion
are central--a stark contrast to norms in Western academia, an enterprise in which
structures of colonialism blatantly pervade. The course was decolonial in every
respect--it was taught by an indigenous Hawai’ian woman, centered indigenous voices
in the class, integrated Hawai’ian language into the course, placed importance on
decolonial Hawi’ian scholarship, and emphasized narrative and personal experiences.3
What I found to be curious, however, is the decision to house a course that is so
revolutionary in nature within Western academia. I now understand this as an effort to
reclaim a narrative, a history, a land--to assert, unapologetically, what is rightfully one’s
own, but in a way that is precisely and extraordinarily indigenous: using frameworks of
kuleana, or indigenous conceptions of rights and responsibilities, rather than attempting
to destroy this master’s house with the master’s tools, so to speak. This phenomenon of
decolonial practices intentionally operating within a Westoxified framework, to my
understanding, is precisely the tension that Mary Baker elucidates in the end of “Waiwai
(Abundance) and Indigenous Futures.” When a woman offers Baker $20 for the
vegetables she is taking home at the end of the day’s harvest at the community garden,
Professor Baker refuses, saying that Ho’oulu ‘Aina doesn’t take money for vegetables.
However, the volunteer next to her accepts the money as a donation (29). This
seemingly simple anecdote is deeply meaningful: it represents an unsettling of
transactional, capitalistic norms that exploit land and labor—yet, the acceptance of the
donation serves as an acknowledgement that we do live in such a society, and that
financial capital given out of someone’s own accord can be used to advance this
project. This is a microcosmic example of an indigenous future residing within a
Westoxified framework; it is powerful, it is possible, and it serves a particular purpose.
For me, this approach, which, admittedly, took me the entire duration of the year to
3

This seems to be a hallmark in decolonial Hawai’ian scholarship that we have read over the
duration of this course.

45
grasp, is both beautiful and uplifting, and has inspired me in my own pursuits in my
intended development of the field of Critical Muslim Studies. Throughout this paper,
which serves as an exploration of and argument for Critical Muslim Studies, I will
integrate important elements of Critical Indigenous Studies that have inspired me in the
development of my field. It is crucial to acknowledge that the very structure of this
paper, which places a strong emphasis on narrative and sincerely acknowledges
people, scholarship, frameworks, and land that have inspired us or helped us along our
journeys--is profoundly indigenous in nature. I am deeply humbled to draw upon a
beautiful and powerful tradition of indigenous knowledge and scholarship in crafting this
paper.
In this next section, I would like to briefly provide background and historical
information regarding the field of Critical Muslim Studies as it currently stands. I then
introduce some of the ways in which I hope to advance this field with my own
developments. Critical Muslim Studies is not particularly prominent, and certainly
underdeveloped. The sole individual attributed to the title is Salman Sayyid, a professor
of social theory and decolonial thought at the University of Leeds in Australia. He
worked to develop this field through international conferences, symposia, workshops,
and finally, by launching an interdisciplinary peer reviewed academic journal entitled
ReOrient. The journal is quite new, and has very few publications. In an article entitled
“ReOrient: A Forum for Critical Muslim Studies,” the editorial board of ReOrient defines
Critical Muslim Studies as (1) a critique of Eurocentrism understood through a number
of different modalities--such as epistemologically, culturally, geopolitically (2) a
suspicion of positivism (3) an embrace of postcolonial and decolonial thinking. Critical
Muslim Studies seeks to “...denaturalize the historiographies, ideologies, and
teleologies that are normalized, produced, and ennabled by unquestioned protocols of
knowledge formation” (8). This field, which is further described as a “series of
epistemological orientations” (8), is clearly intended to provide students with a critical,
decolonial framework in understanding the work around them and unsettling normative
frameworks.
As a potential pioneer in this field, I would like to further develop this approach of
conceptualizing Critical Muslim Studies as a process, as opposed to an essence. This
entails providing students a methodological unsettling of normative frameworks of
morality and power. Works of a multitude of decolonial scholars will be central to this
endeavor, perhaps most pertinently Faisal Devji’s The Terrorist in Search of Humanity:
Militant Islam and Global Politics. This is a prime text in engaging with this methodology
that I am describing, and would be one of many seminal texts in the Critical Muslim
Studies Field. In this piece, Devji examines the terrorist not as a malevolent force
seeking to violate so-called Western values of freedom and liberation, but as precisely
the paragon of these Western values. Constructing frameworks utilizing works such as

46
these will allow me to propose a methodology that completely inverts normative
understandings of values that are quintessentially American. This exposes my intention
behind the field of Critical Muslim Studies in seeking to invite students to place value not
only on learning, but in unlearning entrenched ideals of what is considered moral and
normative, and further, grapple with whom these normative frameworks serve to benefit.
This centrality of unlearning, and more broadly, methodology, is in part inspired by the
emphasis on learning in ways that are more exploratory than definitive (20), as
enshrined in Daniel Heath Justice’s “A Better World Becoming: Placing Critical
Indigenous Studies.” Heath explains that such an approach promotes a sense of
humility with regards to knowledge: an affirmation of the concept that the more we
know, the more we realize how much we don’t know. This is posited as a stark contrast
to the idealization of mastery of concepts inherent in the Western academic vision.
Mastery, Heath affirms, is reflective of white supremacist, colonial structures being
represented in the Western academy, given that “only the imperialist feels entitled to
claim belonging in all places at all times” (26). The emphasis upon methodology in
Critical Muslim Studies is intended to promote a lifelong journey of unsettling normative
frameworks posited by the Western, specifically American, imperial and settler colonial
empire. To expand, this journey is intended to exist and flourish far beyond the
classroom or the duration of the degree--thereby implicitly eliminating the possibility of
mastery.
Next, I would like to explore another essential element of my vision for a Critical
Muslim Studies field, which is, once again, greatly inspired by Heath’s postulations in
the field of Critical Indigenous Studies. This is that the development of an approach that
is characteristically Islamic. Now, this is quite a provocative statement, and a proper
explanation cannot be given in such a brief introduction to an argumentation. However,
in future expansions of this argument, I hope to use works, including those of Shahab
Ahmed, in particular What is Islam?:The Importance of Being Islamic, to explain
precisely what I mean by an approach being characteristically Islamic. However, in the
spirit of an explorative, as opposed to a definitive approach, as is characteristic of
Critical Indigenous Studies, I will contend that part of the methodology of the Critical
Muslim Studies field is to together grapple with, and deconstruct and reconstruct our
epistemologies of an infinite number of categories, including that which is
characteristically Islamic. Once again, it is a disservice to attempt to explain this
phenomenon in this introduction, but I intend to return to this in an expanded
argumentation. Moving away from such a polemical subject, through Critical Muslim
Studies, I would like to place a focus on Muslim peoples’ use of Islam as the precise
modality in achieving liberation. This liberation can take a number of forms; in this case,
I am referring to liberation in the political sense. Understanding this Islamic praxis of
liberation, or Islamic liberation theology, is central in unsettling Westoxified notions of

47
savior complexes towards Muslim peoples that use exploitative frameworks of
capitalism, imperialism, and settler-colonialism to “liberate.”4
An Islamic liberative praxis, drawing from a tradition of kuleana, seeks to derive
its inspiration from the Qur’an and the difficulties faced by the historical lineage of
prophets, working towards “ongoing theological reflection for ever-increasing liberative
praxis” (Demichelis 130). Farid Esack cultivated such a liberative praxis with a basis in
justice-oriented interpretations of the Qur’an, specific to the context of the anti-apartheid
movement in South Africa. The successful deployment of this particular liberative
praxis, Esack explains, can be recognized by results such as liberation from
exploitation, a greater level of respect for human dignity, and withdrawals from illegal
military occupation and economic imperialism (Demichelis 144). A key element in this
particular Islamic liberative praxis includes a Qur’anic hermeneutic of liberation,
employed to interpret and reinterpret certain Islamic concepts in ways that suit a
liberative agenda in a particular socio-historical context. In other words, this is a
“conscious decision to search for meaning...responding creatively to the suffering of the
mustad’afun and holds out the promise for liberation and justice” (Demichelis 135). As
an example, the term kafir is normatively used in the Qur’an to refer to disbelievers or
non-Muslim enemies of Islam. In the manifestation of Islamic liberation theology in the
South African context, however, this original conception of kafir is nullified, and instead
solely used to refer to the apartheid regime and its supporters, irregardless of their
religious affinities (Demichelis 131). For example, in an appeal to boycott the
sanction-busting New Zealand rugby tour in 1988, these Islamic liberationists claimed,
“...he is not a Muslim who goes to mosque on a Friday and to racial sport on Saturday”
(Demichelis 134). This represents a critical departure from what has historically been
understood to be a non-Muslim, and a newfound definition that is specifically in the
service of the anti-apartheid movement. In rationalizing such a departure from
normative understandings of important elements of Islam, Demichelis claims that “all
theological categories, no matter how authentic they are, have usually been the product
of ideology, history and political reflections” (Demichelis 133). This use of independent
interpretation is understood to be representative of a “revolutionary spirit of a religion in
contrast with fatalism and dogmatic authoritarianism in faith” (Demichelis 139).
A goal I have for this proposal of Critical Muslim Studies would be to deeply
investigate this use of Islam, by Muslim peoples across various socio-historical
contexts, as a modality of liberation, while simultaneously unravelling the concept of
returning to Islam as a liberatory praxis as producing an essentialization, or a “True
Islam” that is in the service of creating structures of authority and garnering greater
4

Needless to note, this is not liberation, and simply in the service of the Western colonial expansionist
project.

48
legitimacy to one’s interpretation of Islamic doctrine. In discussing the aforementioned
reinterpretations of normative understandings of important elements of Islam,
Demichelis claims that Qur’anic text has always been the “battlefield for attempts to
support a specific truth in strict connection with an explicit historical period” (Demichelis
133). Allow me to further explicate this subtle yet crucial point. Despite Esack’s
positioning of ijtihad, or independent interpretation as a “revolutionary spirit,” in stark
contrast to the “fatalism and dogmatic authoritarianism in faith” (Demichelis 133), it is
important to recognize that Islamic liberationists are also imposing a type of dogmatism
and a claim to what Islam really is. This is not to undermine an Islamic liberation
theology in itself; in contradistinction, I personally understand it to be a decolonial
modality of resistance used by Muslim peoples in the wake of various forms of
oppression. However, in line spirit of this explorative, as opposed to definitive or
prescriptive approach, I hope to raise questions surrounding notions of “True Islam,”
and the construction of religious legitimacy and subsequent structures of authority that
this produces. What this translates to more broadly is an intention for this disciple to
provide students with a critical framework that deeply investigates decolonial
frameworks and acknowledges severe injustices that cause the emergence of such
frameworks, while simultaneously being critical about claims to decoloniality and
possible attempts to counteract a broader praxis of liberation. Once again, the aims of
the discipline should coalesce to provide students with a critical framework in unsettling
any dominant paradigm, even those that claim a decolonial liberative praxis. This focus
on methodology is, as aforementioned, in contradistinction to simply providing a wealth
of prescriptive knowledge on any given topic, which is emblematic of the colonial
idealization of mastery.
As can be gleaned from the immense integration of the Critical Indigenous
Studies tradition into my vision for Critical Muslim Studies, my vision of this field is not
one that circumscribes the realm of decolonial thought to the sphere of Islam and
Muslims, but rather, one that infuses and credits decolonial scholars of Critical
Indigenous Studies, Africana Studies, Middle Eastern Studies, South Asian Studies,
amongst various other disciplines. While acknowledging, respecting, and crediting the
uniqueness of each of these fields, I hope to develop a strong sense of solidarity and
coalition-building amongst critical decolonial scholars within Western academia,
particularly within American studies--to sketch a cohesive yet beautifully complicated
narrative of the global archipelago of American power, and in doing so, make a
collective, yet individually unique, claim to the discipline of American Studies. This is
the movement I see as essential to Critical University Studies-- creating decolonial
fields in various areas that unsettle white, liberal, secularism as normative, and building
solidarity between these fields. This represents a fundamental challenge and
reorienting of the Western academy. I hope that together, scholars from these disparate

49
yet intimately linked disciplines can represent and respect the following concept
described by Heath: “When you are a guest in someone’s home, that’s the center of the
world” (26). Implementationally, I understand this as respecting the various
epistemologies that we come from, understanding the disparateness of our spheres,
yet working to discover interconnectedness in the service of reclaiming respective yet
collective narratives, histories, and lands from the imperial and settler-colonial empire.
In doing this, perhaps we can tap into concepts enshrined in praxes of indigenous
futures: particularly, the envisioning of a future in which many worlds fit (29), as is
stated in Mary Baker’s “Waiwai (Abundance) and Indigenous Futures.” To draw from a
concept from a theory of futurism specific to the Islamic tradition, I will end this section
with this: InshaAllah.
To conclude this introduction, I would like to make several notes. I hope that in
the development of the field of Critical Muslim Studies, pioneers continually grapple with
a myriad of matters, including but not limited to: the role of non-Muslims within the field,
how this interacts with the implicit goal of centering Muslim scholarship, and issues that
arise when attempting to circumscribe the boundaries of who a Muslim is and what
Islam constitutes of--I have briefly alluded to the latter previously. I hope that all possible
contentions, debates, and intellectual endeavors within this field are premised by our
collective intentionality in striving fi sabil Allah. I hope that, in our pursuit of knowledge
and truth, we supplicate to our Lord to increase us in knowledge [Al-Quran 20:144] and
to continually remember that only He is the Truth, the Possessor of Knowledge, the
Reality of all Realities. Finally, as aforementioned, in drawing upon an indigenous,
specifically Hawi’ian, scholastic tradition that acknowledges people, scholarship,
frameworks, and land that have inspired us or helped us along our journeys--I wish to
acknowledge my roots. In addition to my foremost teachers, including but not limited to
our beloved Messenger, Prophet Muhammad, and my mother and father, I am humbled
to be from a lineage of brilliant, powerful decolonial scholars that have influenced my
own epistemological frameworks and ontological engagements with the world beyond
words.
I am a student of Dr. Anila Daulatzai.
I am a student of Dr. Mary Baker.
I am a student of Dr. Rajeev Kadambi.
Works Cited
Baker, Mary Tuti. “Waiwai (Abundance) and Indigenous Futures.” Routledge
Handbook of Postcolonial Politics Routledge. 21 Feb 2018 . Accessed on 29 Apr
2018.

50

Demichelis, Marco. “Islamic Liberation Theology. An Inter-Religious Reflection between
Gustavo Gutierrez, Farīd Esack and Hamīd Dabāšī.” Istituto per L'Oriente C. A. Nallino,
Oriente Moderno, NUOVA SERIE, Anno 94, Nr. 1 (2014), Pp. 125-147.
Moreton-Robinson, Aileen. Critical Indigenous Studies: Engagements in First World
Locations. The University of Arizona Press, 2016.
“REORIENT: A FORUM FOR CRITICAL MUSLIM STUDIES.” ReOrient , Pluto
Journals,
www.criticalmuslimstudies.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/ReOrient_A_Forum_for_
Critical _Muslim_Studies.pdf.

51

Power Mapping
By Sara Van Horn and Samy Amkieh
For a power map of the university and its governance, click here.
Now, welcome to the career fair! Our intent is not to vilify individuals but to highlight how
systems of oppressive economic and state power are intimately connected to and
through Brown. We believe the incredible harm that Brown corporation members
perpetrate should be common knowledge—not because we are concerned with
individual morality, but because this knowledge helps to expose Brown’s integral role
within global military capitalism.
We have chosen to highlight only a handful of the most egregious reflections of global
power within the Brown Corporation. We have also emphasized industries that attract a
high percentage of Brown students both to suggest a connection between Corporation
members and the industries that claim graduates and to remind ourselves of the ways
that we, as students, become involved in industries that often produce harm.


FINANCIAL/BANKING, REAL ESTATE, and INSURANCE: 15% of undergraduates
● Richard Friedman
○ Head of Merchant Banking Division and sits on the Management
Committee of Goldman Sachs. Chairs the bank’s Investment Committee
and Real Estate Principal Investment Committee. Friedman Hall and the
Friedman Study Center owe him their names.
● Brian T. Moynihan
○ CEO of Bank of America, called a “Top Corporate Tax Dodger” by
Senator Bernie Sanders for Bank of America’s ZERO DOLLARS in
federal income tax in 2010 while getting a $1.9 billion tax refund. They
made $4.4 billion in profits that year (and they love tax havens)!
● Jim Yong Kim
○ President of the World Bank (2012-2019) - which is tied to human rights
abuses around the world as well as imperialist and exploitative practices
of money lending.
● Christina Paxson
○ President of the Brown Corporation and the deputy chair of the Federal
Reserve Bank of Boston. She doesn’t care what students think or vote
for (Brown Divest, Black Walk 50). When questioned about the links
between Brown and Safariland (a tear gas manufacturer), Paxson replied,
‘But...they’ve used tear gas in Germany to put down groups of
Neo-Nazis,” not caring that the same tear gas has also been used at the

52
southern border, in Ferguson, and in Palestine. She is the Queen of
Normalizing Violence.

5



TECHNOLOGY: 15% of undergraduates
● George S. Barrett
○ (2005) CEO and President of the North American branch of Israeli
multinational Teva Pharmaceuticals. (2008) Vice Chairman, owner of ½
million shares, and CEO of Healthcare Supply Chain Services of
Cardinal Health, Inc which delivered massive opioid shipments to West
Virginia and hugely contributed to the opioid crisis for which Barrett
apologized to Congress in 2018.
● Maria T. Zuber
○ Vice President of Research at MIT but guess where she also works?
She’s on the executive board of Textron, a defence contractor based
right here in Providence that makes tools of destruction and oppression
for militaries around the world!



RETAIL5
● Thomas J. Tisch
○ On Board of Directors for department store chain Sears which filed for
bankruptcy in 2018, laying off tens of thousands of workers while
awarding $25 million in bonuses to executives.



COMMUNICATIONS/MEDIA: 5% of undergraduates
○ Bernadette Aulestia
■ Executive VP of global distribution for HBO. Brown students get free
HBO, only on Brown’s campus, leaving students with no way to access
the Game of Thrones finale. Not the type of harm we are investigating but
still...

While the retail industry is not an industry that attracts a high percentage of Brown students, Brown still
exerts incredible power over those with minimum wage jobs.

53

Admissions



tea • noun • /tē/
a. “the best kind of gossip, typically shared between friends. it’s a bonding
tool for people of all ages. tea is usually about someone you know, but
can also extend to celebrities, random internet scandals, etc.” - urban
dictionary

b. the truth, bitch!
WikiLeaks revealing Paxson providing
“special handling” of admissions
applications suggested by the
Corporation

https://drive.google.com/open?id=1oM_Gw8_nhT
p9GxGHiDMYFADUWL4aGzLK

WikiLeaks showing Michael Lynton
donating $250,000 to ensure his child's
acceptance

https://drive.google.com/open?id=1e1hisE4VK2Q
SJa_hawuZ8eOX9jKPvzN5

Luke Weill admitting that he wasn’t
required to complete academic
obligations at Brown because he was rich

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1IVrH0bYBnbjODq
wDvpKBD_soZh6rS-zs/view?usp=sharing

Committee reviewing admissions process
made up entirely of people with a vested
interest in an unfair admissions process

1. https://drive.google.com/open?id=1kYrBG
d2jtWuub0WuOT2yjDJi148cO8tv
2. https://drive.google.com/open?id=1q5T1z
airygxM30LQk-l6idVTBOQ6uNw8

Articles demonstrating Brown’s
destructive impact on the Providence
Public School District

1. https://drive.google.com/file/d/1cEEq64YY
VsALvf2Fi6NKsyg0XGhircZz/view?usp=s
haring
2. https://drive.google.com/open?id=1h0d5h
wWsIJQ14obunb3t9tvpMSHTKf0b
3. https://drive.google.com/open?id=1ZVOC
QRfoODqN77kFlQSc0gd45ASgY-vP

Brown’s horrendous class and race
demographic breakdown

1. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/proje
cts/college-mobility/brown-university
2. https://www.brown.edu/about/administrati
on/institutional-diversity/dashboard
3. https://www.brown.edu/about/administrati
on/institutional-research/factbook/enrollm
ent

Advocate a lottery admissions process! Fuck this tokenistic prestige BS!
(For a fun mood board, click here.)

54

A Timeline of Student Activism @ Brown University
This timeline and its most recent additions have been crowd-sourced. Some things are
bound to be missing or incomplete or incorrect, so please feel free to make edits or
comments here!
And if you want to learn more, here are some resources & archives that are worth
checking out:
● Disability History at Brown
● Student Environmental Activism Timeline
● BDH: Oral history of student activism since the 1980s
● Third World History at Brown
● Remembering Race at Brown
● (Re)Imagining Brown 250+
● Slavery and Justice Archives
● Blacks at Brown Timeline
Year

Action

1764

Brown University is founded as the College of Rhode Island; 3rd in
America and 7th in Colonial America.

1769

Brown’s first class commencement is celebrated just as war looms.

1773

Students form a committee against the Corporation because the food
they were promised is not being provided.

1775

The American Revolutionary War begins.

1778

Students petition the Corporation, in response to a change in
Commencement policy, to be allowed to sit on the graduation stage
like all the classes before them.

1835

21 students refuse their diplomas at graduation for the assignment of
Commencement Parts which they felt created competition amongst
students - Commencement Parts were a performance of public acts to
demonstrate their educational accomplishments.

1851

Students petition to hold meetings during the evening. In protest to
the petition’s rejection, students attend evening lectures given by
professors in what was later called the “Rebellion of 1851”. The
President denounces the breaking of University policy and three
professors resign.

55
1861

The Civil War begins.

1888

First master’s degrees are granted to graduate candidates.

1889

First doctoral degrees are granted to doctoral candidates.

1891

The Women’s College is founded.

1933

The Brown Daily Herald is accused of treason for its “War Against
War” intercollegiate pacifism movement. The Herald’s work is quickly
endorsed by many other college newspapers.

1964

The University establishes a partnership with Tougaloo College

1967

The Afro-American Society is founded.
Students and faculty protest CIA recruitment on campus. An audio
recording of the protest can be found in the library.

1968

65 Black students from Pembroke and Brown College walk out of
class and march to the Congdon St. Baptist Church and remain there
for 3 days in protest of racist admission practices. After student and
administration negotiations, there is a 300% increase in black student
enrolment as well as the establishment of the Transitional Summer
Program (later renamed TWTP).
Administration and faculty decide on educational changes as students
and advocates lobby for New Curriculum, ultimately approving it in
1969.

1969

Student and faculty protest against the Vietnam War participation
turns to focus on the University’s support of the Reserve Officer
Training Corps; some students believe ROTC programs show support
for the conflict in Vietnam while others believe the military values to be
incompatible with the values of a liberal arts education. The faculty
vote to phase out the ROTC.

1970

1500 students strike to protest Kent State shootings and US entrance
into Cambodia. Faculty meets and passes a resolution to send
President Nixon and Rhode Island congressmen to ask them to stop
the Vietnam War.
Rites and Reason Theatre is founded. The first director is George
Houston Bass (1938-1990), who is also the executor of Langston
Hughes’ estate.

56
Asian American Student Association is formed.
1971

The Women’s College and Brown College merge into Brown
University and Pembroke Campus.
The MPC program established.

1972

The Afro-American Society is renamed the Organization of United
African Peoples (OUAP).
Third World student protests ask the University to recommit to the
demands of the 1968 walkout.

1973

The Minority Peer Counseling (MPC) Program is created by African
American students at Brown. By the 1980s, students from African,
Latino, Asian, Native American, and multiracial descent are involved
in the program. Arab Americans are added to the constituent list in
1995.
Chicanos de Brown is founded and is a precursor to the Latin
American Students Organization.

1974

The Latin American Students Organization (LASO) is founded.

1975

The Third World Coalition, of the Organization of United African
People (OUAP) and the Latin American Students Organization
(LASO), leads 56% of the student body to strike after threats by the
administration to cut financial aid and student services due to budget
cuts. Students occupy University Hall and demand increases to
financial aid for students of color as well as demands that the
University honor the agreements from the 1968 walkout.

1976

The Third World Center (TWC) opens in the basement of Churchill
House.

1982

The Third World Center is robbed and vandalised after a series of
anti-Black bottle throwing incidents. The Third World Center and other
student organizations respond. Find out more here.
Dyslexics at Brown is founded.

1983

Students organized a sit-in to support the TWC.
Academic accommodations begin to be offered at Brown.

1984

Lewis Carroll’s “Jabberwocky” is recited by the Jabberwocky 13,

57
disrupting a lecture by then CIA director Stansfield Turner in addition
to student and faculty picketing. The 13 were found guilty of minimal
infringements on the rights of others and received no penalty in a
hearing before the University Council of Student Affairs.
1985

Approximately 350 Third World students rally to demand that the
University resolve issues raised by students of color in previous
years. The Third World Coalition occupies the stairs of the John
Carter Library to reclaim documents of Brown’s slave-holding family.
This is the first time that blacks, Asians, and Latinos work together in
large numbers. The rally increases Asian matriculation substantially,
but several demands from the 1975 protest are still not met, such as
increasing the numbers of black students at Brown to their percentage
of the U.S. population.
Brown Community Outreach (BCO) and Students Against Multiple
Sclerosis (SAMS) create the MS Awareness Program.

1986

The Main Green becomes a mock shanty-town by students
demonstrating against the Corporations’ investments and harmful
environmental practices they support. Four students fast in protest
and are “disenrolled” by the University for fears of liability.

1987

Students Against Apartheid members who disrupt a Corporation
meeting are placed on probation.
The TWC is relocated to Partridge Hall, one of the 1985 protest’s
demands.
Center for Study of Race and Ethnicity in America established.
Students respond to PJ O’Rourke speech.

1988

Students begin a year-long protest for establishment of an Ethnic
Studies department as well as administrative recommitment to the
1968, 1975, and 1985 demands.

1991

The Rape Wall is created by survivors of sexual assault at Brown victims write the names of their aggressors on the stalls of the Rock
and other libraries on campus. Further protest by students and
survivors result in policies defining sexual misconduct as a violation of
the code of conduct and subject to punishment, counseling services
for students, separation measurs between the accused and the
accuser, the creation of Safewalk, and inclusion of sexual assault
education in First Year orientation.

58

ABLE (Association for a Better Living Environment) is founded. The
group of just four students aimed to identify handicapped freshmen
'needs before their arrival, determine the number of accessible
buildings on campus, and increase disability rights awareness.
UCS Representative Lee Busabos '92.5 sponsored three referenda to
discuss disability issues on campus after multiple letters to the BDH
that stated there were not enough disability accommodations on
campus. Among 6 questions, 2 addressed the following: Should
Brown establish an Office of Disability Issues? Should Brown provide
a day-time shuttle with wheelchair-lift for ability-impaired students?
The majority of the votes answered 'YES' as the answer to both
questions (60.8% for the first and 77.0% for the second).
1993

Over 300 students led by the Students for Admissions and Minority
Aid (SAMA) occupy University Hall to demand that the University
conduct need-blind admissions policies, increase the financial aid
initiatives given to students, and generate more awareness on class
diversity. The 253 students who refused to leave the building are
arrested - the movement lost momentum as protesters dealt with the
consequences of their arrests.

1996

Ethnic Studies becomes a concentration

1998

First official course on disability history is offered at Brown.
Project Eye to Eye is founded jointly by a group of Brown students
and Fox Point elementary students.
Colored Brown, a set of documentaries about Third World activism at
Brown, is published by Sophy Pokey Shiahua Wong. The
documentary can be found in the library.

1999

A group of MPCs comes together to form a space where concerns of
students of color can be addressed. This group evolves into third
world ACTION (twA), a multiracial student group dedicated to racial
and economic justice, mainly at Brown and in Providence.

2001

Students of color unite to seek apologies from the BDH after
Conservative politician David Horowitz pays for an ad in the Herald
entitled “Ten Reasons Why Reparations for Slavery is a Bad Idea and
Racist Too.”
"The Social Construction Of Mental Illness and its Stigma" is made an

59
independent concentration.
2002

Students Against War in Iraq (SAWI) and Not Another Victim Anymore
(NAVA) organize protests to the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan,
respectively.

2003

Brown begins its need-blind admission policy for domestic students.
Transfer and international students still do not undergo need-blind
admissions.
Over 1000 Brown and RISD students, faculty, and community
members walk out of class and rally in protest over US invasions in
the Middle East. After national press attention, teach-ins, rallies, and
speakers occur on campus.
Brown organizes the Campus Antiwar Network regional conference
for students.

2004

A speech by Mort Klein, president of Zionist Oragnization of America,
is protested by students, Providence locals, and a contingent from
NYC. Anti-Racist action (ARA) pens a letter to the editor requesting
an apology.

2005

Student pressure reverses the University’s attempts to cut funding to
the American Sign Language Program.
Staff and students protest the “temporary worker” status among
Dining Services workers which allows the University to underpay and
arbitrarily fire workers and limits long-standing employees’ rights.
An unsuccessful campaign is launched by the Anti-Racist Action to
get the Corporation to divest from Israel. Here is a BDH article that
covered a protest leading up to the University’s decision on
divestment. Here are two articles (one and two) that elaborate on an
incident where a Zionist spit at some of the protesters during said
protest. Another protest was held to follow up the first in April.
Anti-Racist Action members pen an article that addresses the rainbow
coalition, “a form of white supremacy run by a “progressive” ruling
class including people of color,” and critiques Ruth Simmons’ use of
tokenism in order to arm the Brown Department of Public Safety.
On November 16th and 17th during a Palestinian Solidarity Week, a
student group called Common Ground built a wall on the Main Green
to simulate the wall in the West Bank of Palestine.

60
2006

The administration’s attempt to change the grading system to allow for
pluses and minuses is rebuffed by students.
Energy manager is hired and an advisory committee formed after the
Environmental Action Network pressures the University to invest in
renewable energy.
Students from universities along the East Coast attend the First
Regional Northeast Conference hosted by the Students for a
Democratic Society (SDS), the first such conference in over 40 years.
The Corporation divests from Sudan after the Darfur Action Network
protests university investment in 6 Sudanese companies.
The University does not outsource the bookstore after persuasion by
the Save the Bookstore Coalition.
5 students with the national Declaration of Peace campaign are
arrested for non-violent civil disobedience at the RI Senator’s office.
Radical University Queers United and Strong (RUQUS) demonstrates
to raise awareness about and encourage implementation of
gender-neutral bathrooms.
Students give speeches and disperse fliers from a balcony in
Alumnae Hall on to Corporation members below in an attempt to
inform them about needed compensation improvements and benefits
for Dining Services Workers.
Rallies, marches, Speak Out sessions, and generation of Coalition for
Police Accountability and Institutional Transparency (CoPAIT) result in
response to incidents of police brutality against students of color.

2007

In January, SDS launches Brown’s first disorientation guide. BDH
article here.
Students critique the BDH for ignoring Anti-War events on campus.
Op-ed here.

2008

Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) protest CIA and Raytheon
(defense contractor) recruiter presence on campus by simulating
dead bodies on the main green.
In April, students pied Thomas Friedman in the face before he gave a
talk about corporate environmentalism. Video footage here.

61

On September 12th, SDS leads a march for Corporation
transparency, a tuition freeze, and better compensation for student
workers.
In October, 7 Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) members
attempt to disrupt an October Corporation meeting because of its
undemocratic decision-making processes and lack of transparency. In
the following year, they are sentenced in a disciplinary hearing to
probation for their protest. Here is A BDH letter to the editor that
argues for the students’ vindication.
2009

Third World Action becomes the Brown Immigrant Rights Coalition
(BIRC).
Brown Students for Justice in Palestine is born.
Students’ transparency advocacy ultimately results in a New Alumni
Trustee position with limited power and whose selection process is
akin to an appointment. BDH article one and two and three.
The Open the Books Coalition (SDS, SLA, and SJP) is formed after
the May Corporation meeting. The object of the coalition is to achieve
transparency related to the universities investment portfolio. BDH
article here.

2011

Students strike to support the Occupy movement (Occupy College
Hill) and to protest police brutality at UC Davis (sparked by the pepper
spray incident).

2012

Student Labor Alliance protests the University contract with Adidas for
its sweatshop practices.
First GISP on disability offered. See the proposal here.
Student protests request that the Corporation increase contributions
to the City of Providence. Providence locals protest Brown’s tax
exemptions - Brown holds a large percentage of land in Providence
but as a non-profit, it pays limited taxes. Universities like Brown,
RISD, Johnson & Wales, hold high-value property but pay very little in
taxes.
In October, a wall is erected on the Main Green by BSJP and BIRC to
protest Zionism and Xenophobia and to highlight the connection
between the United States-Mexico border and the West Bank

62
separation barrier. BSJP and BIRC respond to criticism here.
2013

Student Labor Alliance supports hotel workers demanding better
treatment; conversations end in worker unionization and tax breaks
for the Renaissance Hotel.
Students protest the Keystone XL pipeline construction in Boston (1
student arrested) and Washington DC.
Students and community members protest a speech given by
Raymond Kelly, then-NYPD commissioner, who implemented the Stop
and Frisk policy. The lecture was cancelled following the protest
sparking wide media coverage. A short-lived student union emerged
in the nights after the protest.

2014

Lecture at Hillel by an Isreali Defense Forces sergeant sparks protest
for his opposition to a two-state solution to Isreali-Palestinian conflict.
Students and staff gather over the summer to protest the outsourcing
of Mail Services.
Brown and RISD students and black student groups organize
teach-ins and die-in protests in response to the Ferguson grand jury’s
decision not to indict PO Darren Wilson for the murder of Michael
Brown.
The 1vyG conference for First-Generation Ivy League students is
borne out of a GISP by First-Generation Students in the Ivy League.
The Task Force on Sexual Assault is formed, with members from the
administration, faculty, undergraduate class, and graduate class, in
response to student and faculty calls for sexual assault reform on
campus. Their task is to generate recommendations to the university
on policies to address and confront the sexual and gender-based
violence and harassment on campus.
In December, Students Against the Prison Industrial Complex
(SAPIC) submitted a proposal to the Dean of the College to make The
New Jim Crow the official First Readings of the Class of 2019. Here is
a Bluestockings article. After continued advocacy in the following
year, The New Jim Crow was selected for the First Readings of the
Class of 2019.

2015

Students carry mattresses on campus and rally together in support of
Columbia University’s Emma Sulkowicz and her movement Carry

63
That Weight in response to university mishandling of her sexual
assault case.
Students4RJ forms and holds a silent protest and march through
vampus and University Hall to protest Brown’s mishandling of two
students’ sexual assault cases that year.
Project Heal's Brown chapter established.
The Task Force on Sexual Assault delivers its final report to the
community and Corporation; it includes reccomendations on the
establishment of a Title IX Office with a dedicated lead Officer to
investigate any reported sexual assaults. They also recommend the
clarification and transparency of the ‘Process’ with standardized
protocols for investigation, examination, and testing of all relevant
materials as well as mandatory annual education programs for
students, staff, and faculty.
Following two racist articles in BDH (Columbian Exchange Day and
The White Privilege of Cows), student groups of color quickly
condemned the articles in a joint statement to the BDH and then
encouraged folks to attend a die-in and protest (on October 9th and
12th respectively) related to Indigenous Peoples’ Day being organized
by Natives @ Brown (N@B). Later that month N@B presented at the
Brown University Community Council (BUCC), which forwarded a
proposal to the faculty where it stalled for about a year.
On November 12th, Students staged a Blackout in solidarity with
students at the University of Missouri. Flickr photos here. Video
footage here and here. Bluestockings article here.
On November 14th, a student from Dartmouth attending the Latinx Ivy
League Conference was assaulted by DPS. Here’s a statement
released by a collective of delegates at the conference.
On December 3rd, students organized a Day of Reclamation for the
collective creation of demands in response to the diversity and
inclusion action plan released on November 19th. The action ended in
the storming of president Paxson’s Office in University Hall. Footage
of the office takeover here. BDH coverage here.
2016

Indigenous Peoples Day gets approved in February 2016.
Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) boycotted a pro-Zionist lecture

64
by Michael Douglas and Natan Sharnasky in January. Here is a
statement from SJP. Later that semester, students petitioned Janet
Mock to disaffiliate an upcoming talk from Zionist sponsors Moral
Voices and Brown/RISD Hillel, which ultimately resulted in her
cancelling the engagement.
First-Generation student center opens in the summer of 2016. This
would eventially become the Undocumented, First-Generation,
Low-Income (U-FLi) Center.
In response to the election of Donald Trump, on November 16th,
students organized the #OurCampus walkout in solidarity with
#NoDAPL, Movimiento Cosecha, and the Sanctuary Campus
movements. Here are the #OurCampus demands. Bluestockings
articles one, two, and three. YouTube videos one and two.
Southwest Asian and North African (SWANA) students rally the BCSC
for greater representation and resources, as well as recognition that
SWANA are People of Color. In a show of solidarity, existing BCSC
Heritage Series (Black, Latinx, Native American, Asian/Asian
American, and Multiracial) agree to take pay cuts and redistribute
funding for the creation of a SWANA Heritage Series in Fall 2016.
2017

In April, students protest the University’s investments in Citizens
Bank, which helps fund the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). BDH
article here. An open letter to Christina Paxson here.
Summer RAs protested in response to an incidence of racial bias
against a coworker that ultimately resulted in their termination. A
platform of demands including the RAs reinstatement, amnesty for all
taking part in protests, an apology from the university, and higher pay
for summer RAs was put forward. The RAs successfully acquired a
pay increase. Here is a BDH article. RPLs received a pay increase
the upcoming semester. Here is a BDH article.
Summer RAs also began the Ratty AC campaign after
communications with workers who were struggling in the heat. SLA
continued this work in the months that followed, and circulated a
petition calling for safe working conditions at the Ratty. After many
months of pressure and interim solutions, the university announced a
$3 million investment in air conditioning units for the Ratty.
On August 20th, 2017, the Pokanoket Nation began an encampment
at Potumtuk in Bristol, Rhode Island to reclaim their sacred land from

65
Brown. On September 5th, they planned the event “Pokanoket
Convocation: A March for the Land” during the matriculation
ceremony for the Class of 2021 and staged a march and protest
during convocation. Students and Alumni for Po Metacom Camp
(SAMPC) wrote a statement in support of the encampment.
Institutional actors critiqued the encampment including Dr. Adrienne
Keene and the Steering Committee of the Native American and
Indigenous Studies Initiative. Here is an email from an anonymous
faculty member critiquing Dr. Keene’s response. An agreement was
signed on September 21st, which can be found here. SAPMC wrote a
response to the agreement, stating “The Fight is Not Over.”
In October, Brown Immigrant Rights Coalition held a rally on the Main
Green to advocate for a “clean” DREAM Act. BDH article here.
In November, students protest against the GOP Tax Bill, which would
increase income tax on graduate student stipends and tuition waivers,
effectively cutting their incomes in half. BDH article here.
2018

In April, Brown Immigrant Rights Coalition pens a BDH article calling
out Steven Kinzer for a syllabus that required students to profile
someone who qualifies as a “Dreamer.”
Disability Justice at Brown is born.
In May, an institutional knowledge sharing workshop was hosted by a
number of upperclassmen that brought together students and alumni
engaged in a variety of different struggles for social and economic
justice.
During the summer, the Director of Residential Education and 4 of the
Community Directors (CDs) resigned. The two remaining CDs and
Residential Peer Leaders were consequently, undertrained,
undersupported, and overworked. Students demanded additional
compensation, but were denied said compensation. Students also
demanded the formation of new positions/job descriptions that would
encapsulate additional labor that they had been taken on in order for
them to receive back pay, but they were denied. Residential Life has
continued to experience high turnover and remains understaffed.
SUGSE organizes a movement to unionize grad students, and in
November of 2019 they successfully achieve unionization. Here is a
cluster of their materials or you can check out their website.

66
SJP’s anti-Brown Israel Fund campaign receives support from 50+
student organizations on campus and sets the ground for the Brown
Divest campaign.
On December 5th, on the 50th anniversary of the 1968 Black student
walkout, #BLACKWALK50 is staged in an effort to revitalize the
demands that had been made by Black students from 1968 and on.
Here is a link to the video announcing the action and a podcast made
in post.
Students from EJ@Brown and other student organizations begin to
critique Warren Kanders relationship to the university (serving on the
IBES Advisory Council and funding a lecture series with the Brown
Arts Initiative).
2019

The Brown Divest campaign is launched at the beginning of the
Spring Semester and takes aim at companies that facilitated human
rights abuses in Palestine. Here is a video released with their launch
(easter egg at 2:01). The campaign included a number of teach-ins,
demonstrations, etc. At the end of the semester the student
referendum on divestment passed with 69% of voting students
supporting divestment. The target of the campaign then became
acquiring a recommendation from ACCRIP, which was successfully
achieved on December 2nd of 2019.
In the summer of 2019, the director of the BCSC, Joshua Sehui, was
unjustifiably fired. Students protested his firing over the course of the
summer and fall semester. Here is a timeline of events. The fall
semester culminated with separate articles being released by alumni
and staff about their support of organizing related to Joshua’s firing.
Over winter break, the supervisor responsible for his firing, Dr. Nicole
Truesdell, was moved from Campus Life to the university’s faculty.
The search for a new director continues, and many would like to see
Joshua reinstated.
Warren Kanders Must Go organizers disrupt Family Weekend. BDH
article here.

67

“We were absolutely unified”: Remembering Third World History at
Brown University6
Angelica Cotto ‘19, May Niiya ‘20, Nicaurys Rodríguez ‘21
Solidarity did not mean subsuming your struggles to help someone else; it was intended
to strengthen the political commitments from other groups by getting them to recognize
how the different struggles were related to each other and connected under capitalism.
It called for greater awareness and understanding, not less. – Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor
7

Welcome to the Third World Transition Program (TWTP)! By attending this
program, you will benefit from decades of student activism. In fact, we can trace
TWTP’s origins 50 years to the 1968 Walkout. In May 1968, students from the
Afro-American Society presented a list of demands to the University. It was thirteen
years after Brown v the Board of Education and four years after Freedom Summer, and
the University in 1968 seemed to be moving at a glacial pace towards fulfilling the goals
of the Civil Rights Movement. In the 200 years since the University's founding, a total of
only 153 Black students had been enrolled.8 Frustrated and mourning the recent
assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, the students' demands included: improved
financial support for Black students; increased university focus on Black admissions; the
hiring of Black staff, counselors, and admissions officers; and a building dedicated to
Black students as a social and political space. "Dig it!" they bluntly said in their
statement. The University had better get it. No more vague promises of realizing the
dream of racial equality. Real action was long overdue.
The University acceded to their demands, but were slow to implement the
plan—so much so that in 1975, students rose up again in non-violent protest. This time,
other students of color joined Black students, and it was this second action that
immediately led to the establishment of the Third World Transition Program and the
founding of the Third World Center (TWC) in the basement of Churchill House.9 A
decade later, in 1985, activist students felt that Brown’s record of admitting and hiring
PoC (people of color) still urgently needed improving that they occupied the John Carter

6

Emmitt Carlton, interview by Angelica Cotto, July 18, 2018.
Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, ed. How We Get Free: Black Feminism and the Combahee River Collective.
(Chicago, Haymarket Books, 2017),14.
8
Joshua Gray, “Protest at Brown, 1968-1982,” n.d., 4. Brown Center for Students of Color Digital
Archives. This total can be further broken down into 110 Black men and 43 Black women, as the first
co-ed class at Brown graduated in 1975.
9
Churchill House on Angell Street is now the departmental home of Africana Studies.
7

68
Brown Library.10 In the agreement following this 1985 protest, the Third World Center
moved to Patridge Hall, where it stands today. The Center’s move from the basement of
Churchill House to an entire building just steps from the Main Green reflects how
students fought and succeed in bringing issues affecting students of color to the literal
center of campus.
In 2014, the TWC was renamed the Brown Center for Students of Color (BCSC).
This change was not a result of an upsurge of student demands, although many
students supported the change.11 By then, the reason why the Center was called “Third
World” was lost to many students, administrators, and faculty. This amnesia is
unfortunate because in recent years, the activist environment at Brown has been
fraught with conflict, and the founding spirit of multiracial coalition of the TWC has been
replaced by a tendency towards division along the lines of race/ethnicity. Remembering
Third World history at Brown is critical to successful activism. Without this history, we
run the risk of falling into the traps of unproductive divisiveness, rather than focusing our
energies on the resolution of important issues. We offer below a brief history of the
TWC, delving a bit deeper into its founding, in order to demonstrate how student
activism has mattered at Brown and why multiracial coalition was and is still essential to
achieving student activist goals.
First, we need to sketch a picture of how Brown looked to PoC students during
the late 1960s and 1970s. Although Brown now touts the number of PoC admitted each
year, the number of PoC at Brown was low enough even during the late 1970s that
PoCs could identify just about every other PoC on campus.12 Black students founded
the Afro-American Society in 1967; Asian American students formed the Asian
American Students’ Association (AASA) in 1970; and Latinx students formed the Latin
American Students’ Organization (LASO)in 1974-75.13 During this period, in 1972, the
10

The terms “student of color” or “people of color” (PoC) were not widely used during the 20th century,
but we use these current terms to avoid descriptors like “minority” in this paper. We will also be using the
term “Latinx” in order to refer to students of Latin American descent in a gender-neutral and
gender-inclusive fashion.
11
Many other students, however, did not support the change. A number of faculty in Africana, American
Studies/Ethnic Studies, and History strongly advised against the name change. The faculty criticized the
proposed name change as erasure of history and of the aspirational activist impulse embedded in the
name “Third World Center.”
12
Robert G. Lee, interview by Angelica Cotto, Nicaurys Rodriguez, and Naoko Shibusawa, June 26,
2018. Note: the number of PoC admitted to Brown is still low. In fall 2017, Brown University’s
undergraduate class of nearly 7,000 included fewer than 200 Black men and 270 Black women. For stats
on other groups see: Factbook, Office of Institutional Research, Brown University
<https://www.brown.edu/about/administration/institutionalresearch/factbook/enrollment>. [accessed 25
July 2018].
13
As the number of Third World students increased, new organizations and programming were
developed. The Minority Peer Counseling program was originally created to service the needs of Black
students, but by the 1980s Latinx, Asian, Native American, and multiracial students were also included.
Arab American students were added to this constituent list in 1995. In 1989, The Native American

69
Afro-American Society changed its name to the Organization of United African Peoples
(OUAP) to reflect the principles of Black Liberation and Pan- Africanism. They believed
it was important to ground the organization’s principles in an internationalist perspective.
Although students created separate groups to serve the social and political needs of
their respective constituencies, alumni from this period say that a natural camaraderie
developed among students of color. Due to their similar concerns and lack of resources
on campus, Black alumni Robert Boyd ‘78 recalled, “It was natural for us to embrace.”14
15
Robert Eng ‘77 confirmed that these groups were in communication with each other
before the formation of the Third World Coalition, but it was not until the collapse of
another student coalition in 1975 that students of color felt the need to formally stand
together and pressure the University to honor its commitments to diversity and
inclusion.
By 1975, the University’s expansion resulted in financial strains and budgetary
cuts, forcing students of color to fight harder to become a priority. In February of that
year, President Donald F. Hornig released a statement outlining how student support
services and financial aid were the areas slotted for cuts.16 A wave of Brown’s student
body surged in opposition to cuts that would disproportionately impact services for poor
students and students of color. A multiracial group of students formed “The Coalition”
with the express purpose of advocating for an alternative budget plan more favorable to
student interests. They agreed to add the OUAP demands that the University honor the
1968 agreement, which still remained largely unfulfilled. The Coalition eventually came
to encompass some 3,000 students, who voted to cease all normal activities from April
15-18, 1975. The Coalition dissolved on April 21-22, after declaring victory following the
administration’s agreement to include students in budgetary decisions in the future. The
University addressed the OUAP demands concerning the 1968 agreement by
announcing the establishment of a Committee for Minority Affairs.17 Most white students
felt satisfied, but two concessions allowed the University to kick resolutions of both
issues—student funding and diversity—further into the future.

Advocacy Group (NAAG) was established as Native Americans at Brown (NAB). Recently, in 2016, the
Southwest Asian North African (SWANA) Heritage Series began in acknowledgment of the previous lack
of recognition for this particular racialized experience.
14
Robert, Boyd, interview by Angelica Cotto, August 17, 2018.
15
The admissions tables provided in Shu-Ling Chen’s dissertation make no note of non-Black PoC
admissions before the Class of ‘79. This is incorrect because interviews with several alums from the ‘70s
who graduated prior to ‘79 and report that there were “literally a handful of Asian and Latin American
students,” or otherwise confirmed that there were very few non-Black PoC. Attempts to access older
admissions demographics information from Brown’s website were unsuccessful.
16
Shu-Ling Chen, “Debates over Third World Centers at Princeton, Brown and Harvard: Minority Student
Activism and Institutional Responses in the 1960s and 1970s” (Ed.D., Harvard University, 2000),
https://search.proquest.com/docview/304610518/abstract/ACF44EE719514F2FPQ/1.
17
Chen, “Debates over Third World Centers at Princeton, Brown and Harvard,” 116.

70
OUAP leaders, however, were upset. After seven years of waiting, they were told
to wait again. Former OUAP board member Robert Boyd ‘78 recalls his experience
following the announcement:
. . . there was a guy, Chris - I forget his last name, but we used to call him Bullet,
and he was crying, and saying, ‘That’s not right. They didn’t take care of the
things we were fighting for,’ and that’s when we went and found Vince and JJ
[fellow OUAP members] and started talking about the takeover.18
They decided to occupy University Hall. They couldn’t be ignored by Brown’s upper
administration if they sat right in front of the President’s and Provost’s offices. They
knew that this bold move would be risky so they planned carefully. They wanted their
action to triumph, and they wanted to avoid violence. The antiwar protests at Kent State
just five years earlier had resulted in the shooting deaths of four unarmed college
protesters.19 The OUAP therefore made two strategic moves for safety and success:
they acquired a lawyer and reached out to the Latinx and Asian activists in order to
have greater numbers participate in the takeover. By hanging out with Latinx and Asian
activists, the OUAP knew that their fellow PoC activists were also quite invested in
making University become a more welcoming space for students of color. The Latinx
and Asian activists readily accepted the call— after all, they already knew and trusted
each other— and all together, they formed the Third World Coalition.20 Former OUAP
member and Third World Coalition member Robert Boyd ‘78 explained that it was
natural to settle on the name Third World Coalition, because central to Third Worldism is
“an acknowledgment of the commonality of our goals and of our positions, and of a
desire to aid and support each other.”21 OUAP’s name change from Afro-American
Society already signaled that they were primed to think more broadly about solidarity.
Third World solidarity among peoples of color was inspired by their related, yet unique,
experiences of oppression from centuries of racism and imperialism across the globe
and within the United States.
The concept of the Third World comes from the Cold War. Today, the term is
used as a synonym for poor nations. But as historian Vijay Prashad has pointed out, the
Third World was not a place; it was an ideal, a project.22 When the term was coined, it
represented hope for the newly decolonized nations that they would not beholden to the
agendas of either the First World (the United States and its allies) or the Second World

18

Interview with Robert Boyd.
Interview with Robert Boyd.
20
Robert Eng, interview by Angelica Cotto, August 16, 2018
21
Interview with Robert Boyd.
22
Vijay Prashad, The Darker Nations: A People’s History of the Third World (New Press, 2007), xv.
19

71
(the Soviet Union and its allies). An early expression of decolonized nations to strike
their own path came at the 1955 Afro-Asian Conference in Bandung, Indonesia.
Representatives of the 29 African and Asian nations in attendance envisioned a Third
Way, which was anti-imperialist and aligned with neither superpower. Indonesian
President Ahmed Sukarno declared that this Third Way, and the Third World they hoped
to create, would achieve “the liberation of man from his bonds of fear, his bonds of
poverty, the liberation of man from the physical, spiritual and intellectual bonds which
have for long stunted the development of humanity’s majority.”23 The 1966 Tricontinental
Meeting in Havana included Latin America and reaffirmed the principles of Third
Worldism. Most Latin American countries won independence from Spain and Portugal in
the early 19th century, but remained oppressed by neocolonialism—that is, while they
ostensibly had their political independence, their economies remained shackled to the
interests of the richer nations of the Global North. So in 1966, representatives from 82
nations at the Solidarity Conference of the Peoples of Africa, Asia and Latin America
committed to end imperialist oppression and racism.
College students of color throughout the US identified with Third Worldism
because it is internationalist, anti-imperialist, and anti-racist. In a 1968 interview, a
Latinx member of the Third World Liberation Front at San Francisco State emphasized
that Third Worldism was important because as people of color, they were “all oppressed
systematically as individuals and as a people by society.”24 Many Brown students were
attuned to, and sometimes involved in, student protests at other colleges. Robert Boyd
‘78 said that he and other activist students attended many protests at schools along the
East Coast. He attested to the solidarity Brown’s students of color felt with other student
protests in the United States.25 Although alumni found it difficult to remember the
specifics of where they first heard about Third Worldism, protests in the late 1960s at
schools like San Francisco State and University of California at Berkeley might have
been the inspiration for Brown students to begin identifying with Third Worldism.
The new Third World Coalition of Black, Latinx, and Asian students occupied
University Hall on April 24, 1975. By the time they exited the building the next day,
Brown had agreed to almost all of their demands, which expanded upon the OUAP’s
initial demands to include all people of color.26 In accordance with the Third World
Coalition’s wish, Brown University agreed to treat all students of color equally and
promised to increase admissions by 25% in each underrepresented student group
23

Gary Y. Okihiro, Third World Studies: Theorizing Liberation (North Carolina, United States: Duke
University Press, 2016), 16-17. 19 Okihiro, Third World Studies, 18-26.
24
Okihiro, Third World Studies, 18-26.
25
Interview with Robert Boyd.
26
Brown University Documents Relating to Minority Affairs [4-25],” 25 April, 1975, Index B: 1975, Third
World Student Activism and Protest at Brown: Historical Documents from 1967 to 1991, Brown University
Archives.

72
within the next three years.27 The takeover also resulted in the hiring of a part time
minority admissions officer, additional recruitment efforts among underrepresented
communities, and plans to convert Afro House into the Third World Center.28
Black students in the OUAP fully supported the conversion of the Afro House into
the Third World Center because they understood that their victory rested on their
solidarity with other PoC activists. All felt they would be stronger together. PoC students
shared a connection because of their experience of “feeling the effects of being
put-down based on how you look as opposed to what you say, or how you think.”29
Realizing the power of what their solidarity could achieve, PoC students wanted the
Third World Center to serve as a space where they could organize, hang out, and be
themselves without feeling judged or otherwise pressured to conform. Emmitt Carlton
‘83, former OUAP representative and member of the Third World Coalition, stressed the
importance of the Third World Center as a symbol of togetherness and a place where
students of color felt safe.30
Yet the Third World Coalition was not simply interested in creating what we today
would call a "safe space." They wanted to make it a source for academic support and
activism—that is, a place to think about how they could impact the production of
knowledge at Brown. An undated position paper likely written around 1976 asks that the
center focus on “the intellect of the Third World creations on issues other than protest.”31
This hints at the larger issue: Eurocentric curricula spread an incomplete depiction of
history by marginalizing the histories of people of color. Third World students desired all
Brown students receive a more nuanced, comprehensive education that would enable
the pursuit of social justice and historical honesty. Furthermore, the position paper’s
author highlights the need for the space to host intellectual and social events is
highlighted when they stress the need for “a large space for exhibits, shows and
gatherings.” Beyond that, the position paper suggests that the Thirld World Center could
serve to support PoC academically with study areas complete with reference and
computer resources. Since computers were not as easily accessible in the 1970s before
the age of the personal computers, the position paper was proposing that the TWC be a
place where students could gain access to unparalleled tools for academic success.
Today, the Brown Center for Students of Color continues to function as a
resource for students of color. Although the name has changed, the Center’s aims now
are true to the original intentions of the Third World Center: the BCSC’s programming
intends to empower PoC, to encourage cross-cultural understanding and reflection, and

27

Chen, “Debates over Third World Centers at Princeton, Brown and Harvard,” 118.
Interview with Robert Eng.
29
Judith Burrell, interview by Angelica Cotto, August 15, 2018.
30
Emmitt Carlton, interview by Angelica Cotto. July 18, 2018.
31
Chen, “Debates over Third World Centers at Princeton, Brown and Harvard,” 36.
28

73
to pursue policies of social justice. That said, many Brown activists in recent years
appear to be unaware of the historical context which led to the Center’s founding.
Rather than building each other up and working toward common causes, many students
have fixated on disagreements and activism that seems more performative than
substantive. Harmful politics abound in the form of unnecessary call-out culture, failures
in communication, and distrust among various student constituencies. In acknowledging
these recent trends in activism, we would like to stress that students are not simply
acting poorly. Students of color organize around issues which are incredibly important to
them because they are fighting for their safety, and the emotional toll of this struggle
should not be understated. While students in decades past organized around issues
such as racial diversity/inclusion, divestment from South Africa, and US imperialism,
PoC today live in a world in which global income inequality has skyrocketed since the
1970s as a result of neoliberalism. And although we now see more PoCs in positions of
power, the Black Lives Matter movement, the separation of immigrant families, and the
continuing violence toward indigenous communities remind us that we continue to live in
a racist society.
One prominent example of when student activism has gone awry was during the
2013 protests against a paid lecture delivered by police chief Ray Kelly, which had
ripple effects throughout the Brown community. We discuss this incident in more depth
in our podcast, but want to touch on it here to point out the need to remember the
concept of Third Worldism. Sarah Day Dayon, a 2015 alum involved in the protest,
remembered the aftermath as “toxic.” Reflecting back on the events, she points to the
trouble caused by the lack of communication between students of different backgrounds
before, during, and after the protest: “I think a lot of it was just talking in circles. And
people not trusting each other. . . . It was really hard in those moments of tension to
come together as a community because everyone was so angry and upset.”32 Although
many of the activists and other students involved in this incident opposed Kelly’s racist
stop-and-frisk policies, the lack of dialogue between various groups produced
misunderstandings, and the emotional toll of these events resulted in bitterness and hurt
feelings. Although the Ray Kelly incident happened five years ago, divisions and
misunderstandings remain among many Brown activists today. Keeping this present
context in mind, we asked former Third World Coalition member Emmitt Carlton ‘83 how
the Third World Coalition managed to stand together. He credited the efficiency of the
Coalition to students’ emphasis on communication within and between PoC groups
before they chose to act on issues; it was absolutely critical that they “figure out stuff
amongst ourselves so we wouldn’t fight about stuff in public.” Even within and between
activist constituencies, conflict will arise based on ideologies, methods, or identity
32

Sarah Day Dayon, interview by May Niiya and Nicaurys Rodríguez, July 23, 2018.

74
politics. But we cannot forget that we all are working toward the same goal of universal
liberation.
At the end of every interview, we asked alumni what advice they would give to
incoming Freshmen. After a pause, former OUAP member Laura Hankins ‘87 said:
Being confident in your own identity and reaching out and hearing others’
experiences isn’t taking away or diminishing your own. Brown is its own journey,
the start of a life journey, so you don’t have to have arrived knowing everything,
and in fact it’s really ok to realize how much you don’t know - not in some book
sense, and not like, ‘oh, you’re all kids,’ but realizing people have so many
growing up experiences, and what you can learn from them . . . I feel like that’s a
step to not having this idea of ‘sign onto my cause, because I’m the most
oppressed,’ because we’re not getting anywhere with that.33
We encourage you to continue to dig through the TWC/BCSC’s history so that
institutional memory may be preserved. This is not to say that previous activists and
movements on campus were perfect. Although we are consciously trying not to
romanticize history, looking through the archives at the manifestos and actions of
students of color at this university is inspiring, and there is much to learn from this
history.
Acknowledgements
We would like to thank former Dean of the College Maud Mandel, the Office of
Institutional Equity and Diversity, and the Office of Campus Life for funding this project.
We dedicate special thanks to our advisor, Professor Naoko Shibusawa, for her
guidance and tutelage throughout this process. We would also like to thank the alumni
and faculty who agreed to be interviewed for this project. Although we interviewed more
people than were included in this paper, everyone we interviewed contributed
something to our understanding of this history, and we hope to put their stories to
educational use in the future.
Secondary Sources Consulted
Chen, Shu-Ling. "Debates Over Third World Centers at Princeton, Brown and Harvard:
Minority Student Activism and Institutional Responses in the 1960s and 1970s.”
Ph.D. dissertation, Harvard University, Brown University. 2005. “Encyclopedia
33

Laura Hankins, interview by Angelica Cotto, August 7, 2018.

75
Brunoniana | African Americans.”
http://www.brown.edu/Administration/News_Bureau/Databases/Encyclopedia/sea
rch.php?serial=A0080. Accessed August 15, 2018.
Gray, Joshua. “Protest at Brown, 1968-1982,” n.d., Brown Center for Students of Color
Digital Archives.
Okihiro, Gary. Third World Studies: Theorizing Liberation. Duke University Press, 2016.
Taylor, Keeanga-Yamahtta, ed. How We Get Free: Black Feminism and the Combahee
River Collective. Chicago, IL: Haymarket Books, 2017.
Prashad, Vijay. The Darker Nations: A People’s History of the Third World. New Press,
2007.
Archives Consulted
Index B: 1975, Third World Student Activism and Protest at Brown: Historical
Documents from 1967 to 1991, Brown University Archives.
Dean of the College files, 1939-1971. John Hay Library Special Collections, Brown
University.
President Ray Lorenzo Heffner Papers, 1966-1969. John Hay Library Special
Collections, Brown University.
Merton P. Stoltz Papers, 1968-1977. John Hay Library Special Collections, Brown
University.
Charles H. Nichols Papers, 1969-1988. John Hay Library Special Collections, Brown
University.
Paul F. Maeder Papers 1970-1977. John Hay Library Special Collections, Brown
University.
Interviews*
Boyd, Robert. Brown University Class of 1978. August 17, 2018.
Burrell, Judith. Brown University Class of 1974. August 15, 2018.
Carlton, Emmitt. Brown University Class of 1983. July 18, 2018.
Chang, Peggy. Brown University Class of 1993. Director of the Curricular Resource
Center and Associate Dean of the College. July 12, 2018.
Cheng, Tina. Brown University Class of 1983. Interview by May Niiya. August 16, 2018.
Dayon, Sarah Day. Brown University Class of 2015. Interview by May Niiya and
Nicaurys Rodríguez, July 23, 2018.
Eng, Robert. Brown University Class of 1977. August 16, 2018.
Hankins, Laura. Brown University Class of 1987. August 7, 2018.
Hines, Sivan. Brown University Class of 1984. August 20, 2018.

76
Johnson, Sheri. Brown University Class of 1986. August 24, 2018.
Lee, Robert G. Brown University PhD 1980. Associate Professor of American Studies &
Ethnic Studies, Brown University since 1997. Research Associate, Department of
Political Science, 1975-1981. Director of Third World Center 1981- 1985.
Associate Director Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in the Americas,
1988-1990. Interview by Angelica Cotto, Nicaurys Rodriguez, and Naoko
Shibusawa. June 26, 2018.
Li, Aubrey. Brown University Class of 1971. July 20, 2018.
Li, Jenny. Brown University Class of 2014. Interview by Angelica Cotto and May Niiya.
July 31, 2018.
McWilliams, Marco. Swearer Center Junior Fellow and Practitioner in Residence.
Founding organizer of the Direct Action for Rights and Equality (DARE) Black
Studies Program. Interview by May Niiya. July 31, 2018.
Ponte, Anne Marie. Coordinator, Co-Curricular Initiatives, Brown Center for Students of
Color. Interview by May Niiya. August 13, 2018.
Ramirez, Ainissa. Brown University Class of 1990. Interview by May Niiya. August 1,
2018.
Rodríguez, Besenia. Brown University Class of 2000. Senior Associate Dean of
Curriculum. August 9, 2018.
Saraf, Aanchal. Brown University Class of 2016. Interview by Angelica Cotto and May
Niiya. August 9, 2018.
Takesue, Kisa. Brown University Class of 1988. Director of Leadership Programs,
Pre-College & Undergraduate Programs, Brown University School of
Professional Studies. July 12, 2018.
Turner, Jarred. Brown University Class of 2016. Interview by May Niiya. August 1, 2018.
Tran, Paul. Brown University Class of 2014. Interview by Angelica Cotto, May Niiya, and
Nicaurys Rodríguez. July 25, 2018.
Watson-Daniels, Jamelle. Brown University Class of 2016. Interview by May Niiya.
August 6, 2018.
*All interviews conducted by Angelica Cotto unless otherwise noted.

77

“No one is going to give you the education you need to overthrow them.
Nobody is going to teach you your true history, teach you your true heroes,
if they know that that knowledge will help set you free.”
– Assata Shakur

78

A Timeline of Student Environmental Activism
Note From the OG Compilers: By talking about the history of emPOWER (the umbrella
organization for student environmental groups on campus), we wanted to promote
conversation about different organizing principles and the dynamics between
institutional initiatives and student activism. There are currently eleven emPOWER
groups, but we are focusing mainly on the groups that are involved in EJ (environmental
justice).
Feel free to make comments, suggestions, and edits here!
Additions and edits by Nina Wolff Landau, Mayo Saji, and others!!!
Date

Milestone

1970

Inaugural Earth Day worldwide

1978

The Center for Environmental Studies
(now Institute at Brown for Environment
and Society) is formed

1996

The Jemez Principles for democratic
organizing are written and adopted at a
globalization meeting hosted by the
Southwest Network for Environmental
and Economic Justice with the intention
of arriving at common understandings
between participants from different,
politics, and organizations.
The principles include inclusiveness,
bottom-up organizing, letting people
speak for themselves, working in
solidarity and mutuality, building just
relationships, and commitment to
self-transformation. The full list can be
seen ejnet.org/ej/jemez.pdf

2005

The Sustainable Food Initiative (SuFI) is
founded by a group of students who
wanted to see more sustainable food on

79
campus.
2006

Brown Environmental Action Network
(BEAN) kicks off emPOWER, a campaign
calling on Brown to become climate
neutral by reducing or offsetting all of its
carbon emissions.
BEAN is a non-hierarchical,
consensus-oriented organization working
passionately to reduce Brown’s
environmental impact. With an ideological
commitment to environmental justice,
BEAN coordinated environmental
campaigns and projects on campus.
BEAN pressures the university to invest in
renewable energy. An energy manager is
hired and an advisory committee formed.
SuFI establishes an organic garden on
Hope and Charlesfield Street. (This is the
garden outside of the Young Orchard
dorms.)

2007

In the spring of 2007, BEAN’s campaign
achieves its goal of having the university
reach carbon neutrality through
reductions, renewables, and offsets by
2008, as well as reduce emissions to
80% below 1990 levels by 2050.
Following the victory, BEAN continues to
exist for about a year while emPOWER
efforts transition toward the
implementation of policy. Student action is
somewhat split between “lifestyle
environmentalism” and policy changes,
with policy being the main initial focus of
emPOWER.
Details on progress made on these goals
are not easily accessible, but summary
statistics show that university is on track
to reduce its emissions 42% by 2020 (an

80
immediate goal), mainly through retrofits
and efficiency measures.
2008

The Rhode Island Student Climate
Coalition (RISCC) is founded at the
biannual PowerShift conference after
students from Brown University and the
University of Rhode Island decided to
collaborate to pursue a clean energy
future.
Mission statement: RISCC is a statewide
alliance of students and youth working for
a clean, safe, and just future for all. We
work both on our campuses and within
the community in Rhode Island, by
building relationships between
organizations and policymakers that are
focused on building a sustainable and just
economy with green jobs, clean air, land,
and water, that transition our society away
from dirty energy as well as social and
environmental injustice. We empower
each other so that we have a stake in our
environmental future and are given a seat
at the table.

2009

Bikes@Brown branches off from Brown
Outing Club to offer free bike rental and
repairs on campus.
Beyond the Bottle forms within
emPOWER in February.
The group was partially inspired by the
bottled water ban at Washington
University in St. Louis.
SuFI and other groups launch the Real
Food Initiative at Brown.
The Real Food Initiative was an iteration
of a nation wide organization devoted to
promoting sustainable food. It became a
part of Brown Dining Services’

81
Sustainability Program as part of a
collaboration between SuFI, the Student
Labor Alliance, and Students for a
Democratic Society.
2010

SCRAP is founded with a goal of
implementing composting on the
institutional level.
SCRAP later shifted its focus to include
supplying a means of composting for
students living both on and off campus. In
March 2015, it helped in the
implementation of a composting pilot in
Andrew Dining Hall, with hopes of further
expansion

2011

Bikes@Brown joins emPOWER and
opens a repair shop in the hallway near
the Kasper Multipurpose Room in
Faunce.

2012

The Brown Divest Coal Campaign is
founded in September, when a group of
students meet in a classroom to discuss
the idea of making Brown a leader in
fossil fuel divestment.
The campaign decided to focus on the 15
dirtiest coal companies with a long-term
goal of divestment from all fossil fuels.
Bill McKibben of 350.org joined Divest
Coal for a special stop on his Do the Math
tour in November
600 people come out to hear McKibben
speak about the urgency of the climate
crisis and the role of universities in
solving it.
Brown Climate Action Fund (renamed
Brown University Climate Action League)
is founded. Their pilot project was
EcoFlow, a campaign to reduce water

82
usage by replacing inefficient
showerheads.
2013

In April, Brown’s Advisory Committee on
Corporate Responsibility in Investment
Policies (ACCRIP) issues a
recommendation that the university divest
from coal. In May, Brown Divest Coal is
the first student group in memory to
present at a Corporation meeting.
The committee considers issues of ethical
and moral responsibility in the investment
policies of Brown University. Their
evaluation criteria includes the potential
for “positive impact toward correcting the
specified social harm, or when the
company in question contributes to social
harm so grave that it would be
inconsistent with the goals and principles
of the University to accept funds from that
source.”
October 27th, President Paxson
announces that Brown University has
decided not to divest from the 15 largest
coal companies in the US.
In response, Brown students deliver a
letter to President Paxson demanding
more transparency, accountability, and
responsiveness from the administration.
15 students and frontline community
members sit in University Hall insisting
the University become more
representative of the voices of Brown’s
community, and divest from the coal
industry. Student activists come together
for a short-lived student union focused on
holding the university accountable.
Students run an unsuccessful campaign
for an environmental justice track within
the Environmental Studies curriculum

83
during the development of the new ES
curriculum.
Students begin to work with the Green &
Healthy Homes Initiative (GHHI). This
leads to the formation of the Healthy
Housing Hub group on campus.
2014

RISCC participates in the initial stages of
the Resilient RI Act, working with
community groups, and policymakers.
The bill provides a framework for the RI
government to plan for and manage
climate change impacts, with the ultimate
target of an 80% reduction from 1990
emission levels by 2050.
After the push for fossil fuel divestment in
2012 and 2013 was rejected by the
administration, university president
Christina Paxson turned to Resilient RI to
find other ways to address climate
change. Brown paid several students to
assist with the bill before and during the
legislative session. The long-term impact
of this legislation still remains to be seen.
September 21st: The People’s Climate
March in NYC draws 400,000 protesters,
including 400+ from Brown and the
greater Providence community.
November 8th: The first RI Youth Summit
on the Environment (RYSE conference)
brings together students from various
groups and movements.
The conference was planned with the aim
of bringing activist voices together and
questioning the role of environmentalism
in society, as well as exploring
intersections between different
movements and perspectives.

2015

RISCC joins Burrillville Against Spectra

84
Expansion and the FANG Collective in an
ongoing campaign against natural gas
expansion in Rhode Island.
The campaign began after the expansion
of Spectra Energy’s Burrillville
compressor station was announced. The
proposed expansion would double the
capacity of the compressor station and
further entrench natural gas into the
state’s energy mix.
Camila Bustos and Michael Murphy write
an op-ed for The Brown Daily Herald,
describing their experiences with racism
and a lack of diversity and inclusion within
the Institute at Brown for Environment
and Society (IBES).
2016

In June, the FANG Collective and
Environmental Justice League of RI join
efforts in the #NoLNGinPVD campaign
that is led by Monica Huertas against
National Grid’s proposed liquefied natural
gas facility in South Providence. Brown
students attend, and have continued to
attend protests and rallies.
Building on many years of student
activism within IBES, advocating for
environmental justice curriculum and
more diverse faculty, students continue to
pressure IBES leadership. The draft
Departmental Diversity and Inclusion
Action Plan does not address issues on
lack of representation of students or
faculty of color nor of inclusive
environmental justice curriculum. In
response, students pressure IBES
publicly by writing their own DIAP that
calls for a required class on
environmental justice, the beginning of an
Environmental Justice track, the hiring of
more professors of color, mentorship,

85
especially for students of color, and
anti-racist training for professors. IBES
adopts much of the language of the
student DIAP and forms an internal DIAP
committee.
From this student organizing,
Environmental Justice at Brown is
founded. In the fall, EJ@B recruits people
of color and begins to develop
“Environmental Justice on College Hill,”
an event aimed to annually educate
Brown students about the history of
environmental justice in Providence and
at Brown.
In November, three Brown students are
arrested in nonviolent direct action at TD
Bank in solidarity with Standing Rock
against the financing of the Dakota
Access Pipeline (DAPL).
2017

In response to years of student demands,
IBES forms a joint student-teacher
committee to develop an Environmental
Justice track. The first draft of the track
largely includes courses from Econ,
Political Science, and other historically
white, Western-focused departments.
Students successfully pressure the
committee to include additional Africana,
Ethnic Studies, and Humanities courses
in the department. The track is available
for students to concentrate in by Spring
2018.
EJ@B works with the FANG Collective to
pressure Brown to divest from Citizens’
Bank, which funded DAPL and other
pipeline projects on indigenous land.

2018

In February, alumni from the Institute at
Brown for Environment and Society (Klara
Zimmerman, Sophie Duncan, Trevor

86
Culhane, and Camila Bustos) write an
op-ed for BDH, describing Warren
Kanders’ company (Safariland) and its
role in making military and police products
used against protestors in Ferguson,
Cairo, West Bank, and Standing Rock.
Warren Kanders is a Brown alumni,
member of the Presidential Advisory
Council for IBES (appointed by President
Paxson), and an active donor to the
Brown Arts Initiative (including sponsoring
an exhibit and lecture series on Protest).
Kanders responds with an op-ed in the
BDH, dismissing any concerns about his
company, Safariland, and aggressively
denying any and all responsibility.
In November 2018, news coverage from
Hyperallergic and others reports on the
use of Safariland tear gas against
migrants at the US-Mexico “border.”
Kanders refuses to resign as Vice
Chairman of the Whitney Museum despite
a letter signed by a hundred staffers. In
December, the Brown Immigrant Rights
Coalition publishes a Statement of
Solidarity with Migrant Caravans in
Bluestockings and highlights the violent
role of Kanders and Safariland.
EJ@Brown hosts an April fundraiser for
#NoLNGinPVD to support the ongoing
resistance and activism.
RISCC changes into a chapter of Sunrise,
a national movement of young people
working for climate justice. Their main
focuses are for greater political
awareness of climate change and
widespread adoption and implementation
of the Green New Deal. Since founding,
Sunrise at Brown and RISD has recruited
students to attend large climate strikes;

87
organized protests and office visits to put
pressure on the Governor of Rhode
Island, Senator Whitehouse, Senator
Reed, Representative Langevin, and
Representative Cicilline; and helped
support Sunrise’s Northeast Regional
Summit in September 2019 in
Providence.
2019

During winter break, EJ@Brown works
with other students and groups to launch
the Warren Kanders Must Go campaign
at Brown, led by the work of Decolonize
This Place in New York. The coalition
demands that Brown cut all ties with
Warren and Allison Kanders and publicly
denounce the use of tear gas at the
US-Mexico “border.” The coalition has
unsuccessful meetings with President
Paxson and Provost Locke, who minimize
the violent border actions. Brown Divest
campaign issues calls for divestment from
Safariland due to its contribution to
violence in Israel-Palestine.
In February, Warren Kanders Must Go
drop flyers throughout the Granoff Center
during an art event to raise awareness
about Warren B. Kanders’ funding of and
involvement with Brown University, and
specifically, the Brown Arts Initiative
(BAI). The coalition demands that the BAI
cut all ties with Warren Kanders, CEO of
Safariland, and reject all future donations.
The coalition also demands that Brown
University and the BAI release a
statement condemning the violence in
Israel-Palestine and at the US-Mexico
“border.” They post that they refuse to be
complicit in state-sanctioned violence by
taking money from and building the
reputation of Warren Kanders.
In March, Warren Kanders Must Go

88
co-hosts a teach-in on Warren Kanders
and Safariland with the Brown Immigrant
Rights Coalition and Brown Divest.
Throughout the spring, due to student
pressure, the Institute at Brown for
Environment and Society begins a
process to create principles guiding their
desired membership on the presidentially
appointed Presidential Advisory Council
and their donors. The Brown Arts
Initiative plans a series of events on Arts,
Ethics, and Philanthropy. Following the
delivery of a complete timeline and
numerous articles to President Paxson,
the University still takes no action to cut
ties with Kanders and denounce violence
in Israel-Palestine and at the US-Mexico
“border.”
In October, Warren Kanders Must Go
disrupted multiple events during Family
Weekend. At an IBES panel focused on
“sustainable investment”, WKMG asked
provoking questions regarding the
contradictory role Warren Kanders holds
on the IBES Advisory Council and as a
Brown Alum, and the fundamental
incompatibility of using capitalism to
“solve” environmental problems. The
group also passed out flyers throughout
multiple events and staged a banner drop
on Faunce Steps and gave a brief
statement at the beginning of a student
tour.

SO WHAT IS ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE
Environmental justice shares roots with other justice movements that seek to end
discrimination based on race, gender, sexual orientation, migration status, class, and
other intersecting identities. EJ advocates seek to work with frontline communities in
achieving an equitable distribution of environmental benefits and burdens that do not
disproportionately harm marginalized groups and envision a world without
environmental hazards.

89

CAMPUS ENVIRONMENTAL ACTIVISM
Since 2007, environmental activism on campus has diverged from a more cohesive
focus on lifestyle changes to include issues of environmental justice (EJ) and
intersections with other groups and movements. Several different approaches have
marked the evolution of the environmental movement on Brown’s campus. Campaign
focuses and goals differ castly between organizations. One distinction that has been
particularly prominent has been the EJ-focused groups and the groups that are not
EJ-focused. Another divergence exists between groups working closely with facilities
and the administration and groups that work outside of the institution or in opposition to
its current trajectory.
EJ ORGANIZATIONS IN RHODE ISLAND
Environmental Justice League of RI (currently restructuring); the FANG Collective; No
LNG in PVD; Groundwork Rhode Island

90

Building a MFKN Movement!!!
 
This document is meant to be a movement building manual for organizers. This piece
was adapted from a transcription of the Organizing for Substantive Change Workshop
presented by Cameron Johnson ’17 and organized by Liliana Sampedro ’18 as well as
past and current student experiences.
On the structure of this piece: not everything happens in the same order. Movement
building isn’t always a linear process. That said, we’ve ordered the content of this piece
intentionally, and we hope that it gives you a helpful framework for thinking about
organizing on campus.
1. Vision
Often folks have some intuitive sense of what they want to demand of the powers that
be. It might be increases in pay or a more diverse student body or divestment from
fossil fuel companies. Whatever the case may be, before deciding on what exactly it is
that you want in this moment, it’s important to spend some time thinking about what
your vision for the future is, and making sure that what you’re building up today is
consistent with the vision that you have for tomorrow. For example, asking the
University to build a new space for Black students might be inconsistent with a world
where low-income Black people are free of gentrification.
Having a clear vision34 of what you want the world to look like is also helpful when
finding comrades. Working in a group of people who have a clear collective vision will
be much easier when it comes to decision-making35 than a group with very different
long-term goals. For example, when deciding on how to support trans people in prisons,
abolitionists and reformists have very different responses. Reformists say we should
build prisons for trans people, and abolitionists say that we should end imprisonment.
That’s not to say you shouldn’t attempt to build coalitions or find common ground with
folks who have different moral or political philosophies, but in organizing collectives, it’s
important to discuss what your individual and collective visions are.
Think of your vision as a compass. Your vision is something that you can always return
to when making decisions and deciding how to move forward.

34
35

You can also think of your vision as your long-term goals.
Here are resources one and two on consensus based decision making.

91
Activity: mission, vision, values! Break off into three groups and assign each group
either mission, vision, or values. Brainstorm using chart paper and sticky notes words or
phrases that come to mind when you think of your collective’s mission, vision, or values.
Come back to the large group, share, and discuss. Then pass your chart paper to
another group. Let the group draft a statement based on their new chart paper, the
content of the discussion, and their own thoughts. End by sharing each individual
mission, vision, and values statements.
2. Demands and Goal-Setting
Now that you have a vision and some sense of your long-term goals, it’s time to
formulate smart short-term goals and a corresponding set of demands.36 If your vision
for the university is open admissions, that might not be possible in the immediate future,
but a smart incremental goal could be the introduction of a program for all University
staff and their families to take courses at the university for free. It’s worth noting that the
exact wording of a demand might differ from your goal depending on your target, the
role of negotiation, technical definitions, etc. The following are criteria upon which you
should evaluate your short-term goals and the corresponding set of demands:
● Specific: so things cannot be repurposed or misrepresented by others, and so
specific individuals are responsible for executing the demands and said
individuals are accountable to a group of people who actually give a shit.
● Measurable: so progress can easily monitored.
● Activating: so that you can agitate people, elicit reactions, and generate
momentum.
● Realistic: so folks don’t get frustrated, preserving morale and ensuring folks feel
like they have accomplished something, people take you seriously, so that failure
isn’t fated.37
● Time-specific: to put pressure, maintain commitment, strategic, we only have 4
years, accountability, seek progress, alleviate pain…

36

Your goals and demands might not be identical. Sometimes you might demand something in the hope
that your target makes a compromise. Sometimes your goals might actually be a by-product of a
particular set of demands, as opposed to an explicit facet of them.
37
Is there room for negotiation or compromise? There doesn't always have to be, but whether there is not
should impact how you navigate conversation with your target.

92

Vision (long-term
goal)

Short-term goal

Demand

Redistribution of
wealth

Creating a
reparations fund
of $300,000
dedicated to
supporting the
education of
students in
Providence.

We demand that UCS increase the student
activities fee by $50 and use the funds
generated by this change in policy to create
a Reparations Fund dedicated to providing
support for new and ongoing projects and
initiatives in that Providence Public Schools
District. The allocation of such funds should
be governed by a committee of Brown
students (especially those from the PPSD),
PPSD teachers, and PPSD students.

Abolition of police
and prisons

Removing all
responsibilities
from DPS other
than those
connected to their
mandate as police
officers (i.e. no
more key
delivery).

We demand the reallocation of job
responsibilities such that the Brown
University Department of Public Safety is
not responsible for tasks not directly related
to their mandate (i.e. the delivery of keys to
students and responding to Emergency
Medical Services calls). These
responsibilities will be re-allocated to create
new staff and student positions at the
university.

Make sure that any commitments made by the university are also held to these
standards.
Activity: Create a table similar to the one above, and make sure that all of your
demands fall in line with your goals. Next, give all of your demands a ranking from 1-3,
where 1 is non-negotiable, 2 is important but not essential, 3 is least important. Finally,
for each demand, draft a compromise demand.
3. The Campaign
Now it’s time to plan the campaign. You’ve got a specific set of asks that align with your
vision of the future, but who do you take it to? How can you maximize your chance of
success? What’s the timeline for your campaign? Here are some things you might want
to think about when you’re planning your campaign:

93
Power Mapping - who can actually give you what you’re asking for? Mapping who has
power (as it’s related to your goals) will help determine where to apply pressure and
who your targets are! The following is an example of a power map:

Activity: create your own power map! Some folks like to put people on an x and y axis
(where x is how supportive you think people will be and y is someone's power to impact
the situation), some folks like to create a web with colored edges and bubbles indicating
different types of relationships, levels of support, etc. You do you, gurl!

94
Tactics - how are you going to convince (or force) the powers that be to give you what
you’re asking for? This is really going to depend on your ask, the tone of your
campaign, the capacity and positionality of your crew, etc. Here’s a list of potential
actions that you might take in service of your goal:

Letter and
card writing

Letter and
card
delivery

Teach-in

Banner drop Protest

Rally

Petition

Call-in

Film
screening

Delegation

Flashmob

Bike tour

Run/walk

Meeting
disruption

Marches

Vigil

Die-in

Concert

Boycott

Walkout

Social
Media Bots

Fasting

Sit-in

Public
demonstrati
on/performa
nce

Lockdown

Canvassing

Poster
campaigns

Video
announcem
ents

Public
forum/ town
hall

Social
media
campaigns

Op-eds and
articles

Solidarity
Actions

Crossover
events

Strike

Referendum Studies and
surveys

This is not an exhaustive list! Also, for the most part, these actions are relatively “safe”
and traditional. Think outside of the box, and don’t be limited by the moral expectations
of your oppressors. Cuz when we go high, they go even lower.
Activity: Create a tactic star! For each tactic that you’re thinking about using, make a
quick tactic star by answering the questions that correspond to each tip. If you don’t
want to make a literal star that’s cool, but it’s still valuable to evaluate your tactics using
the questions below.
Tactic Star

95

38

Timeline & Escalation - highkey, it’s important to know when shit’s gonna go down.
Creating a comprehensive timeline gives folks an understanding of how much time
they’ll have for each task, and which things have to happen before others. It’s worth
noting that there’s sometimes an unhealthy sense of urgency at Brown because our
time here is relatively short and the administration's most effective tactic is to stall and
wait us out. Given that, improving transitions from year-to-year will help to ensure that
the knowledge and momentum necessary for the movement to continue is preserved.
Not only do we need to think about a timeline. We also need to think about how we’re
going to escalate. Escalation is important for a number of reasons. First, we don’t want
to start with something like a sit-in straight away because we need to spend time
38

The tactic star graphic was inspired by another from the Free Cooper Union Disorientation Reader.

96
building momentum in order for it to be successful. Second, we don’t want to use the
most labor-intensive tactics first if other less demanding tactics might be just as
successful.
Activity: create a timeline and an escalation chart for your campaign! If you’re tech
savvy, try using this GitHub repository. This is the repository that supports the timeline
for Disability History at Brown. A sample escalation chart for the SLA Library Worker
Campaign can be found below.

SLA Library Worker Campaign Escalation

4. Other Tools and Practices
Tools

Practices

Task Sheets

Consensus based decision making.

97
Social Barometers

Be intentional about the ways that you
use space (i.e. are we going to be sitting
in a circle or classroom-style)

Press Logs

Dedicate time doing fun things/bonding
with your organizing team
Establish pods - lists of people that folks
would want to support them if they
experienced harm and hold them
accountable if they caused harm
Have rituals: do check-ins and/or
grounding practices
Use non-Brown emails and create a
non-Brown google drive
Give credit where credit is due

 
 

98

“I learned early that crying out in protest could accomplish things. My older brothers and
sister had started to school when, sometimes, they would come in and ask for a
buttered biscuit or something and my mother, impatiently, would tell them no. But I
would cry out and make a fuss until I got what I wanted. I remember well how my
mother asked me why I couldn’t be a nice boy like Wilfred; but I would think to myself
that Wilfred, for being so nice and quiet, often stayed hungry. So early in life, I had
learned that if you want something, you had better make some noise.”
– Malcolm X

99

“You have to act as if it were possible to radically transform the world.
And you have to do it all the time.”
– Angela Davis

100
“Those of us with experiences in the struggle have a historical responsibility to pass
them on. Mistakes are the nursery of new ideas, so we must share them too; if we
continue to hide and distort our errors, those coming after us will be condemned to
repeat them. We cannot afford the luxury of leaving it up to historians to reveal what we
did after fifty or one hundred years have passed. Present conditions demand we tell our
stories now.”
– Donald L. Cox

Storytime: #BlackWalk50
click here to listen to the #blackwalk50 interview series
By Amanda & Noell
#BlackWalk50 was mad complicated, and different folks will have different
understandings of what exactly took place and why. Nonetheless, we wanted to offer
our perspective and a brief summary of what took place. Things took off after an MPC
workshop about Brown’s relationship to and complicity in white supremacy. Feeling
emboldened, a group of students began organizing around the possibility of a walkout to
Congdon Street Baptist Church. The purpose was to build upon the legacy of the Black
student organizers from ‘68 and to shed light on how little Brown has done to address
its relationship to white supremacy (in its many forms). As time went on, this possibility
became a reality, but again, a complicated one. Most of the organizing took place on the
DL out of fear that the administration might attempt to prevent the action and
compromise the bargaining power that accompanies a group of angry undergrads. On
top of that, the timeline was relatively short given that the 50th anniversary was less
than 3 months away. Despite word-of-mouth recruitment and a(n admittedly inadequate)
number of public info sessions, the time-crunched, DL nature of the organizing and the
absence of a real political education effort created a disconnect between the organizers
and the rest of the community. But the ball was ROLLING. On Sunday December 2nd, a
video was released that demanded administration agree to a list of demands by
Wednesday, December 5th. This generated a huge amount of attention on and off
campus, and at that point, all eyes were on #BlackWalk50. Unfortunately but perhaps
not surprisingly, there were disagreements within the Black community about how we
should be moving forward, and there were a number of concerns and criticisms
regarding Wednesday’s walkout. Many of these concerns were brought to light in a very
intense Monday night meeting of much of the Black community. A second - much less
intense - meeting took place the following night to decide how exactly we were going to
reorient the action the following day. For better or for worse, the tone of the following
day’s rally shifted from “bold action” to “commemorative celebration.” Some folks went
so far as to describe the tone of the rally as one of “mourning.” And things went ahead.

101
We marched across campus and then to the Congdon. We stayed there for three days
and two nights. Attendance was low at night, but a considerable number of folks came
thru in the late afternoon/early evening period; folks from PSU and DARE came through
to give workshops; there was lots of food and laughs and dancing and singing and even
a little Christmas tree decorating! Absent the aforementioned bargaining power,
conversations with administration were stalled until the Spring semester and many of
the goals that we set out to meet at the beginning of our organizing were left unmet.
Based on what went well and what didn’t we made a list of things to consider if you’re
tryna have shit pop off.
1. Maintain a clear vision and mission. Reiterate the vision and mission as often as
you possibly can.
2. Always be working to strengthen your relationships with people. This will look
different depending on the people you’re trying to build relationships with, but
building support, forming alliances, and expanding your team is always easiest
when you have friendships with the people you’re trying to engage.
3. Always be very very very intentional about your language and messaging
because once a public statement is made it’s impossible to redact.
4. Video announcements can garner a wide audience. If you plan on releasing a
video (or making any type of large announcement), leak everything to news
agencies early.
5. Take notes and archive everything.
6. Getting the support of relevant student organizations is valuable.
7. Get graduate students involved!
8. Lowkey, social status (clout) on campus matters. Think about it.
9. Get criticism early and always have channels available for people to provide
criticism.
10. Do teach-ins about the issue your addressing. Make sure people understand
relevant history, philosophy, public statements/demands, and the larger vision.
11. Treat every concern brought to the organizing collective as valid and important.
12. Create a GoFundMe, Venmo, PayPal, etc. People will donate money, and people
at Brown have a lot of it. That said, do your best to make sure as much of it goes
to the Providence community as possible.
13. The Black population at Brown is not a working class community and folks should
act and organize accordingly.
14. President Paxson is much more effective via email and public statements than
in-person.
15. Staff and faculty can be allies and accomplices. Know who is who.

102
16. Include the Providence community in ways that are sustained, meaningful, and
beneficial to said community. Don’t just come to folks asking for things or acting
flaky. If you intend to include people, commit to it.
17. If you can find a lawyer to consult (for free), do it.
18. Don’t use your Brown email to communicate sensitive or private information. That
said, organizing in secret is not likely to be successful if you intend for the action
to have a significant amount of engagement from the broader community. You
can’t bring as many people on board if it’s a secret.
19. Be intentional about how you create spaces. Certain spaces are better suited to
certain events, actions, conversations, etc.
20. At Brown, everyone wants to be a leader, but we need followers too!
21. During negotiations, make sure that you have all of the necessary and relevant
people in the room. A common administrative stall tactic is creating a wild goose
chase forcing students to jump between administrators and turning them into the
“unreliable” middle-person.
22. Record everything - this perfectly allowed according to Rhode Island law but may
violate Brown’s code of conduct in certain situations (see D.12).
23. Some alumni will be supportive and some won’t. Find the ones who are because
your opposition will position alumni against you.
24. Get input from experienced student organizers (past and current), especially
those from Brown. You want to acquire as much institutional knowledge as
possible.
25. Prepare for things going terribly (actions that don’t go to plan, divisions among
organizers, social isolation, etc.). The emotional and psychological stress of
organizing can be really overwhelming and that’s not an accident.
We also want to share a set of recorded interviews and conversations about the walkout
that we turned into a podcast! You can find the episodes here.
Lastly, please feel free to reach out to us if you have any questions about the walkout or
would like us to put you in touch with other folks that were involved. We also have
extensive records of the event and would be more than happy to share them with folks
interested in the action!

103

Anti-Zionism and Palestinian Liberation Efforts @ Brown
This is a revitalization of a piece in Brown’s 2015 disorientation guide, which you can find here.

Active from 2004 to 2006, Anti-Racist Action (ARA) was one of the first student groups
to take up anti-zionist work on Brown’s campus. ARA was unique in that their politics
explicitly identified zionism as a white supremacist and colonial ideology. Despite its
unpopularity on campus and the pervasiveness of pro-zionist rhetoric, ARA launched a
divestment campaign in 2005 that was ultimately unsuccesful. Outside of their
anti-zionist work, ARA also worked to challenge white supremacy on campus in other
ways. Notably, they penned an article calling out Ruth Simmons and the “rainbow
coalition,” which they defined as “a form of white supremacy run by a ‘progressive’
ruling class including people of color.”
Following ARA some years later, Brown Students for Justice in Palestine (BSJP) was
established as a Palestine solidarity group working to raise awareness about issues
related to Palestine and to diminish Brown’s institutional complicity in human rights
violations in the region. The group was first formed in 2009, in the wake of Israel’s
bombardment and ground invasion of Gaza, under the name “Break the Siege”. Today,
BSJP is one of over a hundred student chapters nationwide involved in Palestinan
solidarity work. Here you can find BSJP’s old website.
In 2011, after months of research, BSJP launched a campaign calling on Brown
University to divest from twelve US companies profiting from or facilitating human rights
violations against the Palestinian people. During that campaign, BSJP presented to the
Advisory Committee on Corporate Responsibility in Investment Policy (ACCRIP) on
multiple occasions, providing ample evidence of the companies’ participation in the
killing and displacement of civilians, the construction and maintenance of the illegal
separation barrier and the expansion and maintenance of illegal settlements in the West
Bank and East Jerusalem.
A year later, after repeated delays, the ACCRIP released a public letter finally admitting
that “Israel is indisputably engaged in ongoing systemic abuses of human rights and
violations of international law.” The ACCRIP ultimately failed to produce a
recommendation to the Brown Corporation - despite the requirement to do so as
mandated in its founding charter - largely due to a sustained effort by particular
committee members and their allies to disrupt all committee operations rather than see
a divestment recommendation come to the table.

104
In the spring of 2019, BSJP in conjunction with a number of other campus organizations
launched the #BrownDivest campaign whose goal was to divest from a list of
companies complicit in human rights abuses in Palestine.39 #BrownDivest sought the
passage of a student body referendum, and after months of tireless campaigning, the
referendum passed with 69% of the vote. In response, Paxson - rather undemocratically
- ignored the result of the referendum and stated via email:
I am opposed to divestment from companies that conduct business in the West
Bank and Gaza Strip. Brown’s endowment is not a political instrument to be used
to express views on complex social and political issues, especially those over
which thoughtful and intelligent people vehemently disagree. As a university,
Brown’s mission is to advance knowledge and understanding through research,
analysis and debate. Its role is not to take sides on contested geopolitical issues.
This email was followed by a response from nearly 100 faculty members asking Paxson
to listen to the student body, which can be found here. In a UCS general body meeting
that followed (which you can listen to here), Paxson further dismissed the referendum
and went on to position the ACCRIP as the only legitimate channel for pursuing
institutional redress in investment policy. At that point #BrownDivest had already
presented to the ACCRIP and requested that the committee do the research necessary
to produce a recommendation to divest. In lock step, Paxson and a number of faculty
members set out to modify ACCRIPs scope and charge, overburdening it and
channeling all of its recommendations to her own office instead of directly to the
Corporation. #BrownDivest quickly alerted the faculty of Paxson’s attempt to undermine
the voices of community members, and the vote to decide on ACCRIPs change in
scope and charge was postponed.40
In the fall of 2019, #BrownDivest continued its activism with a new target in mind: the
ACCRIP. In an effort to strengthen the case for divestment, #BrownDivest created A
Practical Guide to Divestment as a resource for ACCRIP. After a semester of working to
build #BrownDivest’s case and debating its critics, the ACCRIP voted on December
2nd, 2019 to recommend divestment. That recommendation was ultimately released in
March of 2020.

39

Brown Jewish Voice for Peace was founded in Spring of 2018 to advance the call for Palestinian rights
at Brown. JVP was a part of the #BrownDivest coalition, publishing an op-ed on the Jewish case for
divestment, and hosting a forum on divestment. In Fall 2019, Brown Students for Israel is presenting to
the ACCRIP in an attempt to smear the Divest coalition as antisemitic. Jewish Voice for Peace is planning
on presenting their position at the meeting as well and countering BSI’s presentation.
40
Nour’s oral history of BSJP: part 1 and part 2.

105
As the situation in occupied Palestine continues to deteriorate and human rights abuses
remain a daily reality, BSJP’s mission grows more urgent. Though this work has
primarily approached Palestinan liberation by focusing on opposition to occupation, it is
important to remember that this work is inspired and motivated by anti-zionst and
anti-colonial political frameworks. Despite the institutional impotence of ACCRIP and
President Paxsons’s work to undermine movements for divestment, BSJP and
#BrownDivest continue to challenge Brown’s role in the oppression of Palestian people.

106

“Decolonization is not a metaphor.”
– Eve Tuck

107

“Oh my God, Karen! You can’t just ask the Corporation
why they’re Zionist colonizers!”
– Gretchen Weiners

108

The Pinkprint of Brown Divest
*All names and identifying information has been redacted
*If you have further questions or need other documents please contact
browndivest@gmail.com
STEP ONE: CREATE A REVERSE TIMELINE
Depending on your campaign, demands, etc. it is helpful if your organization
creates a timeline in reverse order. When is your big date? What do you want to have
accomplished by that time? Our campaign began preparation over winter break and we
knew our “big days” (highlighted in yellow). It is important that you start from your last
date and make your way up. We had different google sheets for “pre-announcement
tasks”, “after announcement tasks”, and “if UCS approves tasks” leading up to the
student vote. It is important to separate these tasks so that your team members do not
get overwhelmed at the quantity of tasks that need to be completed over a semester.
Shade in gray as each week passes.

Week

Dates
(Sun-Sun)

To Be Accomplished

1

01/20-01/27

Planning Meetings and Initial Task Delegation

2

01/27-02/03

● Pre-Announcement Tasks

3

02/03-02/10

● Pre-Announcement Tasks

4

02/10-02/17

● Announcement on Monday 2/11 and Wall
Demonstration
● After Announcement Tasks
● Events: Divestment 101, Palestine-Kashmir Event on
the 14th: 12-2 pm,

5

02/17-02/24

● After Announcement Tasks
● Events: Creative demonstration, Companies
Workshop Motorola(Thurs 21st 4-5 pm Friedman
201)

6

02/24-03/03

● After Announcement Tasks
● Events: Divestment 101(2/27 at 12-130pm Petteruti),
Potential Textron Demonstration
● 02/27 UCS Presentation

109
● Between UCS Presentation and UCS Decision tasks
7

03/03-03/10

● Between UCS Presentation and UCS Decision tasks
● Events: Creative demonstration, Companies
Workshop-Textron (Thurs 7th 4-5 pm Page Rob 503)
● 03/04 Divestment 101 (UCS Reps) Smitty B 106 7-8
pm
● 03/06 UCS Decision

8

03/10-03/17

● IF UCS Approves tasks
● Settler Colonialism Workshop (Palestinians and
Native Americans)
● Events: Divestment 101

9

03/17-03/23







--

Spring Break

IF UCS Approves tasks
Brown Progressive Action Committee Event
Divestment 101
Events: Marc Lamont Hill on the 20th
03/19-3/21 Student Body vote!

STEP TWO: CREATE A CALENDAR
Keeping a calendar will help your team members see all events clearly. Make
sure you shade in gray as each week passes.
February
Sun

Mon

Tuesday

Wednesd
ay

Thursday Friday

Saturday

10

11
Campaig
n
Announc
ement +
Wall
Demonst
ration

12

13
Divest
101 7-8
@Saloom
on 003

14
KashmirPalestine
event
12-2

16

Meeting
@ 8pm

15

110
17

24

18

19

HOLIDAY

HOLIDAY

25

26

20

21
Company
Teach in
@4-5
Page
Robinson
Meeting
@ 8pm

27

28

Roadmap
to
Apartheid
7-9@fried
man 201

Meeting
@ 8pm

22

23

UCS
Presentat
ion!!!
March
Sun

Mon

3
4
Anti-Se
mitism
worksho
p
4-5:30
@Kasse
r Fox

Tuesda
y

5
DIVEST
101 for
UCS
member
s
BCSC
7-8pm

Wedne
sday

6
UCS
Decide
s to
Move
Forwar
d or
Not

Thursd
ay

7
Textron
Worksh
op
Meeting
@ 8pm

Friday

Saturday

1

2

8

9

111
10

11
Settler
Colonial
ism
Event

17

18

UCS
Debate
7-9pm
List 120

DIVEST
101

12
13
Teach In
on
Kanders
with
Kanders
Must Go
7:30-8:3
0
Friedma
n 102

14

19

20

21

Marc
Lamont
Hill 7-9

Social
@ 8pm

VOTIN
G
START
S AT
NOON

15

16

22

23

Meeting
@ 8pm

SPRING
BREAK!

VOTIN
G
CLOSE
S AT
NOON,
ANNOU
NCED
AT
10PM

STEP THREE: KEEP A DELEGATION TASK SHEET
It is crucial to keep a centralized delegation task sheet so that all members know
what is going on and can write their progress. We organized it by big dates (in red) and
pre-announcement, post-announcement, etc. (in yellow). Members’ names are
redacted. Strategy team should assign due dates and check in to see if there is
progress on the events and reach out to individuals to check in.

Name

Date

Additional
Comments

Progress

Due Date

Additional

Progress

To Do List

Pre-Announcement Name

112
TASKS

Comments

Print flyers

X has flyers

Video Content and
Production

Sunday
02/10

*Sweaters will
Last editing, to be
come latest 02/05 done by sunday

Website

Sunday
02/10

X finished, last
editing

Figure out UCS
Dates

-

Done

Editing of handbook

Thursday
02/07

In final edits
Flyer (logo, thesis,
FB link) to
distribute at all
events
DONE

Flyer for all events

-

Create Brown Divest
Facebook page

Release
02/11

Created
(unpublished)

Talking points for
allied groups
(creating the
content)

Friday 02/08

Done

Email of Divestment
meeting

Done

Stickers

DONE

Petition

Done

ANNOUNCEMENT
ON Monday, 02/11
After
Announcement

FB
page-->
X post all
3 on
Monday.
9am/10a
m/noon

First post with just
video and link to
handbook. Second
post promoting
Divest 101. Third
post promoting
Kashmir/Palestine
event.

Name

Additional
Comments

Due Date

Progress

113

Maintain Brown
Divest FB page
Reaching out and
Presenting to
student orgs

ongoing
EVERY
ONE

UCS Presentation
practice

ongoing

02/27

UCS presentation
creation

Calendar,
divestment
updates, get for
signatures

Wednesday 2/20
6-7 meeting to
divide roles/finalize Sunday 2/24 11-12
presentation
mock presentation
X meeting Sunday or
Monday to work on it

02/27
Reflect new
petitions, upload
PDF handbook

Edit website

DONE

Online petition for
undergrads/grads/fa
culty?

Done

Petition of 300
signatures

DONE, but make
sure all undergrads.

UCS Presentation
ON Wednesday,
02/27

02/27

Five
people

02/27

* 5 people max.
Good, engaging,
and energetic
public speaking
skills

20 minute
presentation, 20
minute questions

Additional
Comments

Progress

Additional

Progress

Between UCS
Presentation and
UCS Decision
(02/27 - 03/06)

Name

Due Date

Reaching out and
Presenting to
student orgs

EVERY
ONE

ongoing

UCS APPROVES

Name

Due Date

114
on 03/06!

Comments
Still need to decide
on a date/time/place
and ask who can
present.

X

3/18/2019
7-8

Marc Lemont Hill +
Sa'aed Atshan
Event

X

March 20
Macmillan
117 7-9

5:45-6:30 dinner
meeting him
before

BDH article to vote
in favor of Brown
Divest

X

UCS DEBATE

Five
people

Get your friends to
vote!

EVERY
ONE

Feb. 11
9-4pm

Sign up for shifts!!

Brown Divest 101

Emails to students
orgs to get members
to vote on election
EVERY
day
ONE
Table at Blue Room
for voting!
X
Student Body
VOTE on 3/19-3/21
Events
The Wall
demonstration
Palestine-Kashmir
solidarity event

Feb. 14 12-2
pm
Attend event!

Divestment 101

Feb 13 7-8
Salomon 203

We have enough
presenters for the 1st
week and we booked
a room.

Company Workshop

Feb. 21 4-5

We made the

115
pm at
Friedman
201

Roadmap to
Apartheid: From
South Africa to
Palestine

27th
(Wednesday)
from 7-9pm
in Friedman
201

Understanding
Anti-Semitism

3/3, 4-5:30
pm Kasser
Fox

Divestment 101
(Round Two)

3/5 BCSC
7-8pm

Textron Workshop
with Brown War
Watch

Thursday,
03/07 7-8
Friedman
208

Settler Colonialism
and the Indigenous
Struggle in USA and
Israel

Monday, 3/11
6:30-8
SmittyB108

Kanders and
Safariland Teach in

X in
coordinat
ion with
Kanders
Must Go

structure of the 1st
presentation
(Motorola) and are
still working on the
slides.

3/12
7:30-8:30
Friedman
102

GOOGLE DRIVE ORGANIZATION:
Use a google drive with ALL documents, logos, correspondence, and more
centralized in one location. Use members’ personal gmail account instead of Brown’s
gmail, which Brown has access to. Organize your documents in the following way:

116
● Advertisement:
○ Logos
○ Pamphlets
○ Posters
○ Video
○ Op-ed drafts
● Emails
○ List of faculty emails
○ List of your own organization’s members’ emails
○ Any email template for mass messaging
● Events and Speakers
○ Each event should have a separate google doc with more specific logistics
and signup sheets for members
○ In the mega delegation task sheet, place these sign up sheets under the
corresponding event’s “additional comments”
● Internal Socials/Self-Care
○ Document on social ideas
● Meeting Notes
○ All notes for your organization’s meetings
○ Notes of meetings with administrators, other students, event feedback,
etc.
● Research Group
○ If this is applicable, there should be a folder with research material for your
campaign’s content
● Solidarity Building
○ List of student organizations and their emails
~Not in any folder:
● Keep your delegation task sheet, calendar, and reverse timeline OUT of any
folder so that they are easily accessible and because these are
macro-strategy documents.
List of Student Organizations and their Emails:

Group

Group
Email

Brown Divest
Point Person

Point Person
from the Club

Meeting
Time/Place

Status

117
Students
Organize for
Syria
Brown
Students for
Justice in
Palestine
Brown Jewish
Voice for
Peace

Railroads

Messaged
personally
2/20 8-8:30
pm, sayles
200

sent email

Kashmir
Solidarity
Movement
Natives
Americans at
Brown

Sent email

First-Gens@Br
own

Sent email

Brown Iranian
Students
Association
(BISA)

Sent email,
messaged
personally

Lecture Board
E-Board

Messaged
personally

Brown
University
Chapter of the
NAACP

sent email

SWANA
Heritage Series

sent email

118
Asian
American
Heritage Series

sent email

Latinx Heritage
Series

sent email

Multiracial
Heritage Series

sent email

Native
American
Heritage Series

sent email

Black Heritage
Series

sent email

SHAPE (Sexual
Health
Advocacy
through Peer
Education)

Sent email

Asian/America
n Political
Alliance
Bengali
Students' Club

Brown Asian
Sisters
Empowered

Messaged
personally
2/25
7pm/Sarah
Doyle Center
for Women
and Gender Yes

Brown Muslim
Students’
Association

Messaged
personally

United Muslim
Artists &
Designers
(RISD)

Sent email

119
La Alianza
Latinx

Sent email

Dominican
Students at
Brown

Sent Email

Brown-RISD
Arab Society

Sent Email

Campaign for
Burma

Keep reading my
messages but
don't answer so
i'm assuming
they won't sign

Brown Italian
Students
Organisation

Personally
messaged

The Post

sent email

Mezcla

Personal contact,
will get back to
me soon

Black Student
Union

Sent email

French House

Will not sign
(some members
objected)

Alpha Chi
Omega

Will not sign
(can't take a
political stand)

120

Notes from the Student Labor Alliance
What is labor justice?
Labor justice at Brown isn't just about supporting unions and Brown workers! Labor
justice means improving workplace conditions, redistributing profits, and creating
collective ownership. Labor justice means anti-sweatshop campaigns [TEXT BOX POP
OUT: such as United Students Against Sweatshops, a student movement started in
1998 that sought to end university contracts with sweatshops] and worker cooperatives
[TEXT BOX POP OUT: like Healthy Planet Cleaning Cooperative, started with the help
of immigrant workers center Fuerza Laboral in Central Falls, Rhode Island]. [TEXT BOX
POP OUT: A worker cooperative is a non-hierarchical business model that is
collectively-owned and democratically-controlled by its employees (not a CEO).]
Why Unions Matter
Pay and Economic Gains
Put simply, union workers get paid more. Union wage rules also require that workers
who do the same work get the same pay. This reduces the racist and sexist pay
differentials that result from individual raises.
Not only do they make more per hour, workers with strong union contracts are also
provided with important benefits like health care and retirement pensions. These
benefits are worth thousands of additional dollars a year.
Power in the Workplace
In addition to giving workers the tools to win higher wages and benefits, unions increase
worker power and control in the workplace. For one, they provide protections against
arbitrary firing practices. This means that workers can hold superiors and coworkers
accountable for sexual harassment, sexual violence, and other abuses of power with
less fear of retaliation. Contract negotiations and collective worker actions also enable
workers to make their work, which takes up much of their lives, more livable.
Ideally, unions also protect against the coercive threats or firing practices that often
keep undocumented workers from reporting abuses. In practice, many unions still have
racist inclusion practices that prevent many undocumented workers from joining. SLA
supports explicitly anti-racist worker solidarity and recognizes the troubled history of

121
many American unions. At the same time, SLA recognizes unions’ importance—historic
and current— in raising the material conditions of workers of color, and their potential for
building powerful interracial coalitions of working people.
Building Working Class Power
Unions are critical to building working class power as a whole. They represent some of
the only political organizations that are democratically controlled and funded by working
class people. Unlike many non-profits, they are accountable to their members, rather
than to wealthy donors. And, through constant struggle, unions can teach their
members how to organize effectively. This gives people who are often excluded from
the political process the ability to fight the battles that matter most to them—inside and
outside of the workplace.
The Structure of Labor at Brown:
USAW RI
Over 500 workers at Brown are represented by United Service and Allied Workers of
Rhode Island, which was formed in 2003. The three bargaining units are dining,
facilities, and the library. Many temporary and contract workers at Brown are not
unionized.
Dining services
Brown Dining Services is co-managed by Bon Appetit, a private company. After the
partnership began in 2016, many workers experienced an intensification of their
workload without a proportional increase in compensation. There is concern that the
company’s influence over the workplace may be increasing.
Academic labor
Brown depends on the precarious labor of undergraduate TAs, graduate students, and
adjunct instructors. After sustained organizing efforts, graduate student employees
voted to unionize in 2018. They are now represented by Stand Up for Graduate Student
Employees (SUGSE) and the American Federation of Teachers.
Student employment

122
Every part of the university – from dining services and the library to ADOCH and
academic departments – also depends on both the revenue and labor of students.
According to a 2019 survey, over 20 percent of students work more than ten hours a
week. The student minimum wage for the 2018-19 academic year was $10.60 per hour,
just ten cents above Rhode Island’s minimum wage.
SLA Mission/Goals
Student Labor Alliance works on issues of labor justice in solidarity with workers at
Brown, in Rhode Island, and other communities connected to the university.
Recent Campaigns
-Fighting for air-conditioning in the Ratty dining hall
-Supporting university employee contract negotiations
-Solidarity with Student-Farmworker Alliance and the Coalition of Immokalee Workers in
Boycott of Wendy’s
-Work with United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS) to take on exploitative clothing
companies that sell their merchandise at Brown
Upcoming Campaigns
We have two major campaigns coming up this year!
1) We’re working with Rhode Island Jobs with Justice, Fuerza Laboral, and the
International Union of Painters and Allied Trades to fight for fair wages for construction
workers at Brown.
2) We’re working with United Students Against Sweatshops as part of a national
campaign to get Brown to sever its contracts with several clothing manufacturers that
operate through exploitative labor practices.
Contact Info
Email brownusla@gmail.com to subscribe to our mailing list and get involved!
You can find us on facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/BrownStudentLaborAlliance/

123

“If you dare to struggle, you dare to win. If you dare not struggle,
then damn it, you don’t deserve to win.”
– Fred Hampton

124

The Brownopticon
By Noëll Cousins
“Study after study has shown that human behavior changes when we know we’re being
watched. Under observation, we act less free, which means we effectively *are* less
free.”― Edward Snowden

“Do you have a non-Brown email?”
If you’ve ever participated in political organizing on Brown University’s campus,
there's a good chance you’ve heard something akin to the question, “Do you have a
non-Brown email?” While this practice isn’t ubiquitous, it’s become one of the most
common counter-surveillance practices used by activists on Brown’s campus.
Nonetheless, there’s a significant subset of the activist community that doesn’t see the
need to engage in counter-surveillance measures at all, often citing the logistical
difficulty of switching communication platforms and the rare incidence of actually being
surveilled.
In this paper, I argue that the extent of the University’s surveillance capacity is
enough to warrant the adoption of a more robust set of counter-surveillance practices
and would serve to (1) mitigate the panoptic effect of the University’s surveillance
capacity and to (2) protect against administrative abuses of power.

The Brownopticon
Background and the Interests of Administrators
In order to understand today’s questions about the surveillance of student
activism, they must be contextualized in its long history, which begins its most colorful
chapter in the 20th century. Between Cold War McCarthyism and the repression of the
broad range of leftist and progressive organizing in the latter half of the 20th century
(i.e. civil rights, Black power, feminism, gay rights, socialism, anti-war, etc.), there was
no shortage of student movements being surveilled and sabotaged. Thanks to the
Freedom of Information Act and (perhaps even more so) the bravery of whistleblowers
like the Citizens' Commission to Investigate the FBI, activists and scholars have been
able to uncover the incredible impact that government surveillance has had on student
activism.
The most notable FBI program to engage in the surveillance of student activism
is none other than the Counter Intelligence Program (COINTELPRO). Responsible for
the suppression of subversive political activity, the COINTELPRO targeted
organizations associated with a broad range of political ideas, including but not limited
to civil rights and Black nationalism, socialism, communism, (the amorphous) New

125
Leftism, Puerto Rican Independence, etc.41 Student organizations were not exempt from
this surveillance, and targets included the Student Non-Violence Coordinating
Committee (SNCC), the Students for Democratic Society (SDS), Black student unions,
and the like.42
To meet their ends, the COINTELPRO engaged in a variety of tactics to
undermine these groups’ success, but they are best surmised by Brian Glick who
identifies four of their primary strategies: infiltration, psychological warfare, legal
harassment, and extralegal violence.43 One example of this undermining was the FBI’s
attempt to forge correspondence and sew distrust between participants at an NYU
demonstration in 1969. SDS members had joined Black students at NYU who were
protesting the firing of a Black professor. SDS members received a letter from the FBI
(pretending to be an “unnamed SDS member”) that urged them to abandon the protest
because of alleged anti-Semitic remarks of the professor and his supporters.44 Perhaps
more shockingly, the FBI has even gone so far as to provoke activists to incite violence.
In May of 1970, nine students were arrested for the bombing of an ROTC building at
Hobart College after being instructed and provoked by an FBI agent, Thomas Tongyai.45
While cases of this severity are relatively rare, the more banal forms of monitoring were
ubiquitous. Bringing things a bit closer to home, David Kertzer, a professor and alumnus
of Brown, reported to the Brown Daily Herald that during the 1960s he led an anti-war
group called the Campus Action Council, which he discovered (years later) was being
monitored by the FBI.46
While the US government was the primary executor of these surveillance
activities, instrumental to their effectiveness was the cooperation of university
administrators. This cooperation is often superficially understood as a matter of policy,
but Sigmund Diamond complicates this understanding by exploring the relationship
between Harvard’s research and administrative interests and the surveillance that took
place on its campus during the 1940s and 50s. Diamond writes about Harvard’s
relationship with the FBI:
For Harvard, there was the opportunity to establish connections with agencies
that could hire its students, suggest projects, help to finance them —though at
arm's length— and solve some of the problems of conducting research abroad at
a time when that was both politically and financially difficult.47
In this way, the intersecting interests of university administrations and the US
intelligence community led to the formation of an intelligence-university complex, the
remnants of which are abound today.
41

Glick, War at Home, 10-12.
Ibid.
43
Ibid., 9-10.
44
Ibid., 48.
45
Churchill and Wall, The COINTELPRO Papers, 222.
46
Luthra, “Police monitoring ‘could happen’ without U. awareness.”
47
Diamond, Compromised Campus, 50.
42

126
Students’ Right to Privacy
Despite their history of surveilling students, the federal government and
university administrations are (arguably) bound by a set of legal strictures related to the
privacy of students. Of course, the most significant statute related to the privacy of any
American is the Fourth Amendment of the US constitution, which reads as follows:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and
effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and
no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or
affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons
or things to be seized.
Because of rapid changes in communication technology, the Supreme Court’s
interpretation of the Fourth Amendment has dramatically shifted in the last century. In
Olmstead v. United States, the Supreme Court ruled that warrantless wiretapping
enacted by the government was permissible.48 In 1967, however, the Court reversed its
decision in Katz v. United States and ruled that the government’s placement of an
eavesdropping device inside a public phone booth —with the goal of listening to
self-incriminating conversation— constituted an unreasonable search under the Fourth
Amendment.49 Notably, the Court decided that the Fourth Amendment was a protector
of people not places (a shift from Olmstead v. United States) and that the government’s
conduct violated Katz’s “reasonable expectation to privacy.”50 In Justice Harlan’s
opinion, a test was outlined to determine whether a reasonable expectation of privacy
exists.51 The test consists of two criteria: (1) whether a person has exhibited an actual
(subjective) expectation of privacy, and (2) whether society views the expectation as
reasonable (objective).52 Given the relevance of universities to civic engagement and
free inquiry, it is typically understood that university students in the US have a
reasonable expectation of privacy.53
In addition to the protections afforded by the Fourth Amendment, the Family
Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) created additional protections for
student’s educational records. Signed into law in the aftermath of Watergate and the
atmosphere of government distrust it inspired, FERPA applies to all educational
institutions that receive federal funding and prohibits said institutions from disclosing the
educational records of their students without their consent (or the consent of their
parents if the student is a minor).54 Unfortunately, this mandate includes a range of
exceptions. Of these exceptions, three are particularly notable in relation to the
surveillance of student activism. First, FERPA does not include “directory information”
48

Siddiqui, National Security Frat Party, 462.
Ibid.
50
Ibid.
51
Ibid.
52
Ibid.
53
Ibid.
54
Family Educational And Privacy Rights Act, 20 U.S. Code § 1232g (1974).
49

127
(things like name, phone number, and address) in its definition of educational records
and so this information can be disclosed without a students’ consent.55 Second,
universities are allowed to disclose a student's educational records to a university
official if that official has a legitimate educational interest.56 While this seems rather
benign, the definition of “university official” and “legitimate educational interest” is left up
to the university, and in Brown’s case, these definitions are incredibly vague. Brown’s
definition of a university official includes members of the corporation, four categories of
employees (administrative, supervisory, academic, and support staff), any student
serving on an official committee, and any person or company with whom the university
has a contract.57 Perhaps even more vague is the definition of legitimate educational
interest: “a University official has a legitimate educational interest if the official needs to
review an educational record in order to fulfill their professional responsibility.”58 Third,
Brown is allowed to nonconsensually disclose a student’s educational records in the
event of a “health or safety emergency” provided the “release [is] narrowly tailored
considering the immediacy, magnitude, and specificity of information concerning the
emergency.”59 Despite the strict requirements for health and safety disclosures,
universities have used this exception with a great deal of discretion since 9/11.60 Within
a few months of the attack, the FBI (with the help of university administrators)
investigated hundreds of university campuses collecting information about students who
were perceived as Muslim and Muslim student organizations.61 As one might expect,
these arbitrary investigations did not lead to the discovery of terrorist activity.62
Brown is officially beholden to the Fourth Amendment and FERPA, but the
university’s computing policies, which are “agreed to” by all students who choose to
attend the institution, provide important insight into the university’s official treatment of
students’ electronic data and communication. The two most consequential policies for
student activists are the Email Policy and the Emergency Access to Accounts and
Information policy, which arrived just a month after the Virginia Tech shooting in 2007.
63
Together these policies allow for the arbitrary inspection of student email accounts,
and while the justification for such inspections appears to be motivated by an attempt to
monitor violations of the acceptable use policy, “Brown has the authority to access and
inspect the contents of any equipment, files or email on its electronic systems.”64
Further, the procedure outlined in the Emergency Access to Accounts and Information
Policy only requires that the request for information be approved by the Vice President

55

Ibid.
Ibid.
57
Brown University, “Brown University FERPA Policy.”
58
Ibid.
59
Siddiqui, National Security Frat Party, 470-471.
60
Ibid.
61
Ibid.
62
Ibid.
63
Brown University, “Computing Policy for Brown University.”
64
Brown University, “Email Policy.”
56

128
of Campus Life and the Director of IT Security.65 This same procedure is followed when
acquiring access to files on Brown’s local servers or Google Suite.
Brown’s Surveillance Capacity
Brown is like a mini-city. It provides a wide range of essential services to its
students (i.e. housing, healthcare, food, education, etc.), and as a pre-condition for
receiving those services, students must interface with the record-keeping and
surveillance infrastructure of the university. This allows the university to amass a great
deal of information about its students, and while the university is officially using this
information in ways that are beholden to the legal strictures outlined above, the
possibility of misuse begs the question: if an administrator broke the rules and had the
power to access every piece of information that Brown has collected about someone (or
some group), what could they learn? Therefore, the following is an elaboration of the
university’s surveillance capacity and the information that a hypothetical administrator
might be able to glean if it were misused:
Educational Records - First, all directory information (much of which is personally
identifiable information) is not protected by FERPA and is able to be released to third
parties without the consent of students.66 Directory information includes but is not limited
to name, local and home addresses, phone number, email address, photographic, video
or electronic images, date and place of birth, field of study, dates of attendance,
enrollment status, assistantships and fellowships, participation in officially recognized
activities and sports, relationship to an alumnus or alumna of the University, etc.67
Second, educational records (which are only to be disclosed with student consent or
under one of many exceptions to FERPAs privacy protections) are maintained for
amounts of time that are dictated by the university’s (somewhat outdated) record
retention schedule.68 These records include traditional academic records and transcript
information, admission materials, disciplinary records, name change authorizations, etc.
69
The magnitude and sensitivity of this information cannot be understated. Information
breaches related to educational records could severely undermine a person’s safety
and wellbeing.
The Brown ID Card - a Brown student’s ID card allows them to access a variety
of university services, including but not limited to library book lending, printing, meal
plan, building access, etc. According to Brown’s Director of IT Security, the systems that
manage these services are independent ecosystems that rarely have their logs
exported or included in the university’s security information event manager (SIEM).70
That said, the export of this data is not unfeasible given the record-keeping
infrastructure that exists in these ecosystems. It's relatively easy for a student to
65

Brown University, “Emergency Access to Accounts and Information.”
Family Educational And Privacy Rights Act, 20 U.S. Code § 1232g (1974).
67
Brown University, “Brown University FERPA Policy.”
68
Brown University Archives, “Brown University Record Retention Schedule.”
69
Ibid.
70
Mark Dieterich (IT Security Director at Brown University) discussion with author, December 2019/
66

129
examine their own printing, checkout, or dining dollar history, and while individuals have
no way of examining their building access logs, the Brown Department of Public Safety
(DPS) uses these logs in order to identify participants engaging in suspicious behavior
on campus.71 While a person’s dining dollar spending and library check out history are
not the most consequential wells of information, building access and printing logs can
be somewhat more sensitive. Building access logs would allow an administrator to
effectively recover or track a person's approximate location at any given moment;
printing logs might allow an administrator to see what flyers, pamphlets, posters, or
other materials that students are printing in service of their activism.
Video Cameras - over the last two decades, Brown’s campus has seen a
dramatic increase in its video surveillance infrastructure or closed-circuit television
(CCTV) system. According to the Brown Daily Herald, there were about 60 active
cameras on the university's campus in 2000.72 By 2008, that number had risen to 180,73
and in a 2013 report from the Campus Security Task Force that number had risen to an
incredible 430 cameras and 47 DVRs (digital video recorder and storage units).74 The
report goes on to discuss plans for expanding the campus’s video surveillance
infrastructure and highlights the positive impact it’s had on the department. The report
reads, “updated CCTV technology has proven to be an invaluable asset for the
department in apprehending suspects and solving crimes. Several of our robbery
arrests were a direct result of our camera system identifying suspects and/or vehicles
during an investigation.”75 Without a map of the camera placements, it is difficult to
imagine the geography that 470 cameras are able to cover, but given their placement in
“high-traffic areas,” the power of these cameras to monitor the movement and activities
of students is staggering.
Smartphone Location Tracking - all Brown students, staff, and faculty are
encouraged to sign up for the BrownAlert system. In moments of crisis, the BrownAlert
system is used by DPS to notify individuals of said crisis and provide instructions to
ensure their safety. Obviously, a catalog of cell phone numbers in the hands of law
enforcement officers might raise a few red flags for privacy-conscious individuals,
especially. Only in 2018 did the Supreme Court rule against the government’s
unrestricted access to smartphone location data.76 Prior to this, DPS would have been
able to purchase this data from third-party companies like Securus, effectively making
them able to identify the location of any member of the Brown community signed up for
the BrownAlert system.77 While this is no longer legally possible, other threats to privacy
continue to emerge in relation to smartphone location tracking (e.g. the use of
aggregated anonymous location data to monitor social distancing and travel patterns).78
71

Brown Department of Public Safety, “Brown Building Security Initiative (BBSI).”
Elliott, “Surveillance cameras on campus triple.”
73
Elliott, “Surveillance cameras on campus triple.”
74
Brown University Campus Safety Task Force, “Interim Report.”
75
Ibid.
76
Williams, “Supreme Court says police can't use your cellphone to track you without a court order.”
77
Valentino-DeVries, “Service Meant to Monitor Inmates’ Calls Could Track You, Too.”
78
Tau, “Government Tracking How People Move Around in Coronavirus Pandemic.”
72

130
As the law continues to evolve on these issues, it’s possible that gaps in legislation or
corporate loopholes could be used to give DPS access to students’ smartphone location
data.
Email and File Storage - perhaps the topic most relevant to the discourse in
activist communities, the surveillance of email and file storage is rather straightforward.
Any information that exists within the Brown Google Suite or on Brown’s own servers is
within the administration's power to read, provided a request is approved by the Vice
President of Campus Life and the Director IT Security.79 Additionally, if a person is using
the default settings of Google Calendar, any other members of the Google Suite is able
to access that person’s calendar and check to see when they are busy or available.
Given the centrality of the Google Suite to a students life on campus, it not difficult to
imagine the wealth of information that could
It is worth noting that the operations of DPS are relatively independent of the
university’s administration, and the administration would require the cooperation of DPS
if it were to take advantage of some of the capacities described above. Further, this
independence means that DPS is also able to engage in other forms of monitoring or
data collection without the administration's knowledge — if it so chooses.

No Snowden
Use, Abuse, and Trust
As was mentioned above, the administrators of the university are beholden to a
set of legal guidelines and institutional policies that codify students’ right to privacy.
Thus, the surveillance capacity of the university is not something that is officially allowed
to be wielded by its administrators without good reason. Notwithstanding, the belief that
administrators abuse the university’s surveillance power is not uncommon. There are a
couple of reasons for this:
(1) Some student organizers have developed a distrust of the institution because of
their personal experiences with being surveilled by it, and many others have
inherited this distrust from their friends, comrades, and elders.
(2) A history of universities cooperating with the intelligence community in addition to
contemporary iterations of this cooperation (i.e. Muslim surveillance post-9/11
and the FBI’s Academic Alliance programs) has lead many to believe that the
surveillance of student activism is an unofficial, no less present reality.
(3) Brown’s administration has had a history of official and unofficial policies that are
in conflict with one another. For example, in November of 2014, the Guardians of
Peace leaked a mass of confidential data from Sony Pictures. In this leaked data
were email exchanges that severely undermine the integrity of Brown’s
admissions process. In one of the aforementioned emails, the President of the
79

Brown University, “Email Policy.”

131
University outlines to members of the Brown Corporation the procedure for
indicating applicants whose materials they believe require “special handling.”80
The President goes on to articulate the importance of maintaining the reputation
of the university and the problems that might arise if the unofficial policy of the
university were to come to light. She writes:
Although your role as a representative of Brown means you learn about
spectacular candidates, it may also place you in a number of awkward
situations. One that requires special attention is when a family mentions a
gift to Brown in the context of their child's admission. Even the appearance
of linking gifts to admissions poses a serious risk to Brown's reputation.81
Ironically, the leaked emails also contain an exchange between administrators of
the university (including the President) and Michael Lynton, the director of Sony
Pictures, where Lynton confirms a donation of $250,000 to the university and
also requests the “special handling” of his daughter’s application.82 She
graduated in 2019.
Therefore, while there have been no Snowden-esque whistleblowing revelations related
to the surveillance of students and/or student activism, the relationship between
administrators and students is often one of justifiable distrust.
In a survey that I conducted of student organizers, the majority of students
surveyed thought that the university kept tabs on students and/or student organizations.
When asked about the impact that surveillance has had on their organizing, a number of
students mentioned that the suspicion or fear of surveillance (not necessarily the
incidence of surveillance) shaped a great deal of how members communicated and
engaged with one another. A number of respondents also discussed the attempts made
by the Office of Student Conduct (while meeting with known members of student
organizations) to identify participants in certain actions in order to doll out punishments.
Another respondent said, “desires to remain under the radar have inhibited coalition
building and outreach efforts [and] decisions to rely on more covert communication
strategies also create an air of imminent danger that shapes the organizing culture.”
When asked about counter-surveillance practices they’ve used or encountered, the
most common response included non-Brown emails and Signal, but some students also
mentioned the avoidance of Brown’s WiFi altogether and the use of privacy-conscious
platforms like ProtonMail.
Evidently, student organizers’ fear of being surveilled shapes their organizing.
On the Panopticon
Articulated first in the 18th century by Jeremy Bentham, the panopticon is an
institutional design wherein all of the individuals in the institution are able to be watched
80

Paxson, “Fwd: Letter to the Brown Corporation from President Paxson.”
Paxson, “Fwd: Letter to the Brown Corporation from President Paxson.”
82
Lynton, “Re: Brown University / Wire” and “Re: April 1 campus visit.”
81

132
by a single security guard without any of the individuals being able to tell whether they
are being watched.83 While a single security guard would be unable to watch every
individual simultaneously, the individuals within the institution would not be able to tell
whether they were being watched at any given moment and so would act as if they were
being watched all the time. This type of regime is designed to induce self-regulation and
self-censorship among the people residing inside of it. The architecture that Bentham
elaborated consisted of a rotunda with a central observatory, and while it’s most
commonly associated with prisons, Bentham maintained that the design was applicable
to a whole range of institutions, including but not limited to factories, hospitals, and
universities.84
Popularized by Foucault in his book Discipline and Punish, the panopticon has
since been taken up by a range of scholars and is often used as a metaphor to illustrate
the impact of mass surveillance on human behavior and self-censorship.85 Critics of
mass surveillance argue that video cameras and other electronic surveillance
technologies have lead to a panoptic effect in the spaces where they are utilized. The
titular metaphor “Brownopticon” is meant to highlight the panoptic effect of the
university’s extensive surveillance infrastructure and the damage that it does not just to
the “free-thinking” and “liberal” ideals of the university but the activism that has become
part of its brand.
Panoptic Culture and Respectability
Having illustrated Brown’s extensive, panoptic surveillance capacity as well as
the distrust and fear of administrative abuse that has emerged within activist
communities, it’s clear that regardless of whether surveillance is actually taking place on
campus or not, this combination of capacity and suspicion is having a deleterious effect
on campus activism.
Like most institutions, things that threaten Brown’s reputation or finances are
often directly or indirectly criminalized by its administration or governing body.
Consequently, activists who might be interested in engaging in behavior that challenges
the status quo –threatening its reputation or finances– are not just at risk of being
punished. Because of Brown's surveillance capacity, they are almost certainly going to
be caught and made to answer for their “criminal” behavior. The near certainty of being
caught or found in association with “criminal” behaviour undoubtedly shapes a student’s
decision to participate in radical or disruptive actions on campus. Thus, the
Brownopticon constantly encourages students to behave in ways that maintain the
status quo. What is more, because a “criminal” action being observed could result in
increased scrutiny and the likelihood of other “criminal” actions being observed (even
those that are not of a political nature), students with “bad records” are even more likely
to stick to the status quo and forego participating in radical actions. For these reasons,
the Brownopticon is likely to engender a politics of respectability among its subjects, as
83

“Jeremy Bentham And The Panopticon Prison,” Criminology Web.
Ibid.
85
Foucault, Michel. Discipline and Punish
84

133
it creates a divide between “disrespectable” students who are engaged in student
activism that challenges the status quo and “respectable” students who approach
activism in the ways that the university deems appropriate, manageable, and good for
the brand.

Hacktivism
Given the deleterious impact that panoptic culture can have on student activism,
it’s imperative that student activists cultivate a set of counter-surveillance or “hacktivist”
practices. The following is a meditation on possible counter-surveillance practices that
can be used to cultivate private information spaces within the Brownopticon.
Educational Records - first, FERPA mandates that students are able to inspect
their own educational records, and while this might not include all records in a student’s
file, it’s worth knowing what those records entail and what information is most sensitive.
86
Additionally, FERPA requires that students are allowed to block the disclosure of
directory information. Block your information!87
The Brown ID Card - while the Brown ID card makes it possible to log a range of
student activity, the technology that facilitates that collection is not particularly
sophisticated. The Brown ID Card system takes advantage of magstripe technology,
which makes cards relatively easy to copy — a decent magstripe reader/writer machine
costs about $50 on Amazon. Therefore, the easiest way to avoid having one’s behavior
logged is to duplicate the card of another person (especially someone who’s less likely
to be monitored) in the card system (ideally with their consent), and then use their card
instead of your own.
Video Cameras - wearing clothing that covers a good amount of your face and
body is an easy fix, but if you’re worried about facial recognition technology being run
on any of the footage the CCTV system collects, you can also use lasers to disrupt the
facial recognition software or try some of the fashions created by CV Dazzle.88
Smartphone Location Tracking - removing, changing, or withholding your cell
phone number from the BrownAlert system (or any other record-keeping entity that
requests it) are easy ways to make the tracking of your smartphone more difficult.
Email and File Storage - the use of non-brown emails is a good start, especially
privacy-conscious email platforms like ProtonMail or Riseup. In addition to email
platforms, PRISM-Break has a list of applications for computers and phones that are
excellent ways to augment an individual's privacy and security. Some of these
applications and/or services include DuckDuckGo (search engine), Brave (web

86

Brown University, “Brown University FERPA Policy.”
Brown University, “Brown University FERPA Policy.”
88
“CV Dazzle: Camouflage from face detection,” CV Dazzle.
87

134
browser), Cryptomator (client-side encryption for cloud storage), Signal (instant
messaging), and more.89

Conclusion
While this investigation of Brown’s surveillance capacity is certainly not
exhaustive, it has demonstrated the extent to which Brown is able to amass data on
students who are dependent on the services it provides and the impact that this
amassing of data can have on campus activism. Further and perhaps most importantly,
this paper demonstrates the necessity of counter-surveillance practices in order to
generate private information spaces inside of the Brownopticon and limit its effect on
campus organizing. And while I’m sure folks will have to weigh the logistical difficulty of
hacktivist practices against the sensitivity of their communications and information, I
sincerely hope a whistleblower comes along and whips everyone into shape!

89

“Opt out of global data surveillance programs like PRISM, XKeyscore and Tempora.” PRISM-Break.

135
Bibliography
Brown Department of Public Safety. “Brown Building Security Initiative (BBSI).” Brown
University.
Brown University Archives. “Brown University Record Retention Schedule.” Brown
University, Jan. 31, 2013.
Brown University Campus Safety Task Force. “Interim Report.” Brown University, Dec.,
2013.
Brown University Computing and Information Services. “Computing Policy for Brown
University.” Brown University, Dec., 2018.
Brown University Computing and Information Services. “Email Policy.” Brown
University, May, 2007.
Brown University Computing and Information Services. “Emergency Access to Accounts
and Information.” Brown University, May, 2007.
Brown University Office of the Registrar. “Brown University FERPA Policy.” Brown
University, Aug. 28, 2018.
Churchill, Ward and Jim Vander Wall. The COINTELPRO Papers. Boston: South End
Press, 1990.
“CV Dazzle: Camouflage from face detection.” CV Dazzle.
Diamond, Sigmund. Compromised Campus. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992.
Elliott, Justin. “Surveillance cameras on campus triple.” The Brown Daily Herald, Jan.
10, 2008.
Foucault, Michel. Discipline and Punish. Pantheon Books, 1977.
Glick, Brian. War At Home. Boston: South End Press, 1989.
“Jeremy Bentham And The Panopticon Prison.” Criminology Web.
Luthra, Shefali. “Police monitoring ‘could happen’ without U. awareness” The Brown
Daily Herald, Mar. 7, 2012.

136
“Opt out of global data surveillance programs like PRISM, XKeyscore and Tempora.”
PRISM-Break.
Paxson, Christina. “Fwd: Letter to the Brown Corporation from President Paxson.”
WikiLeaks, 2014.
Siddiqui, Nida. National Security Frat Party. Northeastern Law Review 9, no. 2 (2017):
453-481.
Tau, Byron. “Government Tracking How People Move Around in Coronavirus
Pandemic.” Wall Street Journal, Mar. 28, 2020.
Valentino-DeVries, Jennifer. “Service Meant to Monitor Inmates’ Calls Could Track You,
Too.” The New York Times, May 10, 2018.
Williams, Pete. “Supreme Court says police can't use your cellphone to track you
without a court order.” NBC News, June 22. 2018.

137

Cyber & Self-Defense 4 Hacker Femmes & Radical Anarchist Theydies
PLEASE READ: The purpose of this document is to peak folks’ interest in cyber/self
defense and encourage further study. This document is a compilation of resources and
guides written by authors linked throughout the document. As compilers, we do not
have the necessary expertise to evaluate the safety or effectiveness of the resources
below. In fact, some of the resources below may provide conflicting information.
Therefore, we do not recommend the use of any of the information that follows without
further study and formal instruction. Furthermore, we do not condone the use of
violence and are not responsible for harm caused by folks who misuse the information
in this guide.
Defensive Security
Privacy Conscious Software

Most commonly used applications and
web platforms have weak or non-existent
privacy protections and – in many cases
– are actively collecting data about your
behaviour that is then sold for malicious,
capitalist purposes.
PRISM BREAK is a resource that lists
privacy conscious alternatives to
mainstream software and additional
precautions that should be taken to
ensure one’s privacy (i.e. VPNs,
alternative DNS servers, etc.). Check out
TOR (browsing), Signal (messaging),
ProtonMail (email), Jitsi (video
conferencing), and more!
It’s also important to install an
anti-malware software that is not
invading your privacy. Learn more about
how to choose an anti-malware software
at Restore Privacy.

Password Manager

Password breaches have become a
common 21st century phenomenon.
Some examples of breaches that might
have impacted Brown students and their
email accounts are the Canva data

138
breach in May of 2019 or the Chegg data
breach of April 2018. If all of the
passwords to your accounts are similar,
one breach could mean that an intruder
has access to all of your online accounts.
Using varied and complex passwords is
one of the best ways to ensure that you
are protected!
PRISM BREAK recommends
KeePassXC for managing passwords.
You should also enable two-factor
authentication whenever possible!
Mesh Network Technology

A mesh network is a series of nodes (e.g.
phones, computers, etc.) that connect
with one another and co-operate to route
data to and from one node in the network
to another. This type of network can be
used to send encrypted information that is
not visible to intermediary nodes. Mesh
networks can effectively replace the need
for internet – using bluetooth to form the
network – and circumvent state/corporate
surveillance and control. This is ideal for
situations like a protest where folks are
relatively close to one another.
Bridgefy is a messaging app (available
on iOS and Android) that creates a mesh
network of phones connected to one
another via bluetooth and has been used
by protesters in Hong Kong.
@code_savy_folks, it’s also a
developer-friendly SDK that can be
integrated into other mobile applications!

Metadata

Metadata (or "data about data") is data
that describes a piece of information,
apart from the information itself. Metadata
often accompanies emails, images, PDF
files, etc. and can include anything from
location information to temporal
information to a person’s IP addresses.

139

Here are some resources that describe
the information that can be ascertained
through metadata and tips/guides for
scrubbing (or removing) metadata:
● Metadata in emails: What Can
You Learn From An Email
Header (Metadata)? by Guy
McDowell
● Removing metadata from PDFs:
PDF properties and metadata by
Adobe
● Removing metadata from images:
ImageOptim (Mac only) or Free
Scrub by Miserlou on GitHub
● Disable location services to
prevent location metadata from
being added to photos, messages,
and other pieces of information.
Data Breaches and Brokers

Your data is valuable and powerful. It is
bought and sold by companies that are
interested in instrumenting your
behaviour. It’s important that you are
aware of the data that corporations have
access to and how you can limit their
access to it.
Use Have I Been Pwned to check if your
information has been leaked in a data
breach.
Here is a list of data brokers and opt-out
guides compiled by Yael Grauer.

Facial Recognition

Facial recognition software may be used
non-consensually to identify and surveil
individuals in a variety of circumstances.
CV Dazzle is a project by Adam Harvey
that aims to confuse facial recognition
software with things like makeup and
hairstyling techniques.

140
Anonymous Browsing

Anonymity can be an important part of
doing political work online. To anonymize
your internet traffic you can do the
following:
● Work on a public wifi network (like
at a coffee shop) and spoof your
MAC (media access control)
address so that your device’s
actual MAC address is not
recorded by the owners of the wifi
network. Here’s a script for
spoofing your MAC address.
● Install a VPN (virtual private
network) so that internet service
providers are unable to determine
what sites you are visiting. Be sure
to select a VPN that is
privacy-conscious.
● Use the TOR (the onion router)
network so that all of the sites that
you are visiting are being visited
anonymously (i.e. without revealing
your IP address to the sites you’re
visiting). Download the TOR
Browser here.

Location Tracking

Applications often log your location data
and can either sell it or use it to
instrument your behaviour. This data
might also be used to surveil specific
targets or traffic at locations of interest
(e.g. protest sites). While disconnecting
from wireless services, disabling location
services, and turning off your phone can
offer some protection, do not assume
any of these tactics will protect you
completely from location tracking (for an
example of this read here).
An alternative to the methods above is
location spoofing, which refers to the
successful falsification of one’s location).
Skylift is geolocation spoofing technology

141
used in the Data Pools project. The
hardware necessary to use Skylift costs
less than $10.
There are a variety of inexpensive GPS
spoofing applications and VPN/DNS
services available, but they’re
effectiveness isn’t always clear.
Alternatively, a relatively technical guide
(in the form of a blog post by Stefan
Kiese) for GPS spoofing is available
here. It was originally intended to help
Pokemon Go users spoof their location to
catch ‘em all. The HackerRF hardware
required for this spoofing costs about
$300.
Security Guides

The following is a list of additional
security guides and resource compilations
that are worth exploring:
● Surveillance Self-Defence guides for a variety of scenarios
and security goals. Check out their
protest guide!
● Security In-A-Box - more guides
and toolkits! Check out their
anti-malware guide.
● Anti-doxing Guide - as the name
suggests, an anti-doxing guide for
activists.
● Riseup.net - a compilation of
additional resources, guides, and
toolkits. They also offer email,
VPN, and collaboration services.
● Cyberwomen - a digital security
curriculum and with relevant
materials.
● ACLU Stingray Tracking Devices
Map - A map of the US that shows
which states have law enforcement
departments known to use

142
Stingrays (devices that mimic cell
phone towers and trick cell phones
within their vicinity to send
identifying information).
*** A note on panoptic culture: the panopticon is an institutional design wherein all of the
individuals existing within the institution are able to be observed by a single security
guard, without the individuals being able to know whether they are being watched.
Panopticism effectively induces self-censorship, self-regulation because all of the
individuals within the institution might be observed at any moment. Therefore, part of
the importance of normalizing privacy practices in our organizing is because they help
to mitigate the effects (both conscious and unconscious) of panoptic culture on our
organizing (e.g. the rising tendency of folks to engage in respectable, allowed, or “legal”
tactics).
*** A note on other practices: generally, keep privacy/facial recognition/location settings
high on your online profiles and make sure to update everything (apps, operating
systems, etc.) often, as updates often address security concerns. Update your privacy
settings on all of your social media accounts and/or other relevant online services. Also,
using faraday bags and RFID pouches can create an additional level of security for your
phones, credit cards, etc.
Offensive Security
Courses in Hacking

Taking advantage (or knowing how to
take advantage) of vulnerabilities in a
system or a piece of software can be a
valuable asset to your organizing. The
following is a list of courses available on
YouTube for folks interested in learning
how to hack!
● Full Ethical Hacking Course Network Penetration Testing for
Beginners by the Cyber Mentor
○ Complete with a GitHub
repository containing a
course overview and
homework assignments.
○ No captions.

143
○ 15 hours.
● Ethical Hacking Full Course by
Edureka
○ Captions available in
English, Hindi, German,
Urdu, and Telugu.
○ 10 hours.
● The Complete Ethical Hacking
Course for 2020! By Joseph
Delgadillo
○ No Captions
○ 8 hours.
You might also want to consider other
beginner programming courses and/or
courses related to computer systems.
Kali Linux

Kali Linux is essentially an operating
system (like Mac, Windows, or Linux) that
is specifically designed for ethical hacking
and penetration testing. As such it comes
pre-loaded with a huge set of tools,
including things like the Social
Engineering Toolkit, the Metasploit
Framework, John the Ripper, etc.
One of the benefits of Kali Linux is that
instead of installing it onto your computer,
you can install the operating system on a
USB drive and boot (in other words, start)
the operating system from said device
(instead of installing it permanently on
your own computer). Here is a guide for
making a bootable Kali Linux USB (it’s
most fun if you follow the “persistent”
instructions).

Audio Surveillance

With regard to recording, Rhode Island is
a one-party consent state (R.I. Gen Laws
§ 11-35-21(c)(3)). This means that a
person is allowed to record a
conversation if (1) they are a contributor
or (2) they have the prior permission of at
least one other contributor.

144
This has pros and cons. On one hand,
this means that folks can be recorded
without their own consent. On the other
hand, this means that students have
the ability to record conversations with
administrators in order to keep them
accountable, evidence criminal
activity, or document abuse. It’s
important to keep in mind that while this
type of recording is legal in the state of
Rhode Island, Brown’s Code of Student
Conduct Section D.12 states: “Intrusion
into the personal life of another, in ways
that are reasonably likely to cause injury
or distress, in places where one would
have a reasonable expectation of privacy
… Examples of this conduct include, but
are not limited to, making, viewing,
listening to, or distributing secret
recordings...”
Magstripe Technology

The Brown ID Card system uses
magstripe technology. That is to say,
Brown ID cards have a band of magnetic
material that stores a unique series of
alphanumeric characters. This string of
characters is read by a magstripe reader
and used to determine whether you have
access to a building or permission for a
free bus ride.
That said, magstripe cards are technically
easy to copy (as it only requires that you
read the string of characters from one
card and write the same string to
another), and can be used to expand
access afforded to Brown students (i.e.
buildings and buses). A reader/writer
machine costs about $80, but blank
cards cost less than 10 cents at Plastek
Cards.

GitHub

A platform that hosts the source code for
a ton of programs written by a ton of
people. GitHub can be particularly helpful

145
if you’re looking for scripts (pieces of
code) that do specific jobs.
For example, a GitHub user, Greenwolf,
created a program called Social Mapper
that uses facial recognition software to
find the social media profiles of a set of
input names and faces. It’s typical of
programs on GitHub to come with
instructions as well (these can sometimes
be pretty technical, so just ask a CS pal).
Imagine how you might be able to use a
program like Social Mapper to collect
information about university
administrators and/or corporation
members. The possibilities on GitHub are
endless! If you’re feeling up to it, give
Social Mapper a try, or search for other
programs/scripts.

*** Note on hacking: while hacking is often associated with malice and criminality,
hacking is largely about clever and elegant solutions to challenging problems. Hacking
culture emerged in the 50s and 60s at MIT, and with it came a moral philosophy that
continues to inspire the hackers of today. In the second chapter of Hackers: Heroes of
the Computer Revolution by Steven Levy, Levy defines the Hacker Ethic:
● Access to computers—and anything that might teach you something about the
way the world works—should be unlimited and total. Always yield to the
Hands-On Imperative!
● All information should be free.
● Mistrust Authority—Promote Decentralization.
● Hackers should be judged by their hacking, not bogus criteria such as degrees,
age, race, or position.
● You can create art and beauty on a computer.
● Computers can change your life for the better.
techie vibes =/= hacker vibes.
Violence & Weapons & Combat

146
Writing On Violence

The following is a list of readings about
the utility, efficacy, and morality of
violence:
● On Violence by Frantz Fanon (the
first chapter of his book titled The
Wretched of the Earth)
● Red Summer by Rebecca Onion
● Violence, Peace, and Peace
Research by Johan Galtung
● A Black Radical Defense of the
Second Amendment by Patrick D.
Anderson
● Strategy, (Non)Violence, and
Everyday Anti-Fascism by Mark
Bray (the sixth chapter of his book
titled the ANTIFA: The
Anti-Fascist Handbook)
● The Black Panther Party for
Self-Defense by Adrian Wood &
Nutan Rajguru
● Just War: The Just War
Tradition: Ethics in Modern
Warfare by Charles Guthrie and
Michael Quinlan
● Nick Hewlett: Marx on Violence
by Cihan Aksan

The Anarchist Cookbook

The Anarchist Cookbook is a guide
(written by William Powell) for using and
manufacturing drugs, phreaking devices,
firearms, and explosives. It also contains
a list of household substitutes for
ingredients needed to make the
aforementioned tools. Find a copy of The
Anarchist Cookbook here.
The following is a sample list of entries in
the cookbook:
● Molotov Cocktail
● How to make TNT
● LSD
● Converting a shotgun into a
grenade launcher
● Bridge destruction

147
● Electronic scramblers
Protest Supplies & Everyday Carry Kits

The following is a list of protest
resources:
● Medic Wiki - for treating a range of
injuries.
● An Activist’s Guide to Basic
First Aid a zine by Black Cross
Healthcare Collective - another
guide to for first aid and
responding to protest injuries and
maladies.
● Radical Cheerbook zine by
Sprout Anarchist Collective - lots of
fun and powerful cheers.
● Direct Action Survival Guide zine
- things to consider when engaging
in direct action.
● How to gear up for a protest by
Gerry Mak - things to wear and
have with you at a protest.
● Pepperspray, CS, & Other “Less
Lethal Weapons zine by the
Automedical Collective - a sciency
medical guide for injuries inflicted
by “less lethal” police weapons.
Make sure you know the protest
location/route and alternative exits if
things get out of hand. Additionally, make
sure you’re aware of relevant laws where
you’re engaging in protest. Discuss the
possibility of arrest with your friends and
find some tips about arrest here (at
Mic.com).
Consider making an Everyday Carry
(EDC) Kit. Very simply, EDC kits contain
useful items, especially those that
prepare someone for potentially
dangerous or unexpected situations.
They can also come in handy at protests!
Common EDC items include knives,
flashlights, watches, first aid supplies,

148
cash, pen and paper, etc.
Some additional things you might want to
consider including:
● Narcan kits
● Seat belt cutter and glass breaker
● Self defense flashlight
● Pepper spray and/or a taser
● Charging blocks
● Prescription medications
● Tampons and pads
● Lasers
● Photocopies of ID (with caution
and if necessary)
● Emergency contacts (consider
writing phone numbers on your
body)
Know Your Rights

Make sure you know what is legally within
your rights, and prepare for navigating the
consequences if you need to do
something illegal and/or outside of the
rights. The Rhode Island ACLU has
created Know Your Rights pamphlets for
the following scenarios:
● What to Do if You’re Stopped by
Police Immigfration or the FBI
● Protests and Demonstrations
● Photography in Public by the
ACLU

Martial Arts and Self-Defense Classes

As many of us know that weapons are
frequently the cause of escalation.
Knowing how to engage in hand-to-hand
combat can be an effective way to protect
oneself from violence without escalating a
conflict. Here (at dojos.info) you can find
a list of martial arts schools, clubs, and
studios in Rhode Island. This is especially
fun if you get a group of gays, gals, or
non-binary pals!

Guns

Shooting is a valuable and empowering
skill, but it tends to be the case that gun
ownership is less common among women

149
and folks of color. If you’re interested in
learning how to use a gun, here is a list of
shooting ranges (from the RI Department
of Environmental Management), some of
which offer classes on gun use.
Some things to note about gun laws in
the state of Rhode Island:
● Open Carry is only permitted in RI
with a License to Carry Concealed
Weapons (LCCW) issued by the
Attorney General.
● Concealed Carry is permitted in
RI with an LCCW issued by local
licensing authorities or the attorney
general.
● A safety card (or a blue card) is
obtained through a series of tests
and courses adjudicated by the RI
Department of Environmental
Management.
● In order to purchase a gun in RI,
a person must either have an
LCCW; have a blue card; be an
active or retired law enforcement
or correctional officer; or be an
active duty military member.
● RI is a hybrid
shall-issue/may-issue state
meaning that local licensing
authorities must issue an LCCW if
a person meets the necessary
criteria, but the Attorney General
may refuse to issue an LCCW.
● RI also has a Castle Doctrine that
allows folks to use deadly force
inside of their home with no duty to
retreat (if they reasonably believe
someone is about to inflict great
bodily harm upon them).
For more information check out the
following resources for RI gun laws:
● Rhode Island: Concealed Carry

150
Reciprocity Map & Gun Laws by
USCCA
● Gun laws in Rhode Island by
Wikipedia
The Well Armed Woman is a company
that is dedicated to encouraging gun
ownership among women. They’re pretty
deeply connected to the NRA, but they do
have some unique products and
resources that are worth checking out.
*** A note on guns: the ownership and use of guns is often associated with white, rural
conservatism. This can make entering “gun spaces” (i.e. ranges, classes, clubs, etc.)
difficult or uncomfortable for marginalized folks. Participating in these spaces is much
easier with a group of friends!

151

“My crime is that of outsmarting you.”
+++The Mentor+++

152

Where Have We Been? Where Can We Go?
Questions of Sustainability and Care in Social Movements
By Sara Alavi
If you could ask any question of a student organizer that came before you, what would
you ask? This piece was born out of the questions I took the time to ask my elder peers,
and the wise and wonderful reflections they shared in return.
I should start out by saying that I’m not writing this because I have any answers.
The real reason I’m writing this is because I’m confused. Throughout the two years I’ve
spent at Brown supposedly learning all-important things and changing the world while
simultaneously being fantastically cool and amassing an adoring Twitter following for all
my scalding hot takes (spoiler alert: none of that happened), I’ve become steadily more
confused. Confusion doesn’t have to be a bad thing, though. Confusion is what makes
the space for us to ask questions and grow, whether or not those questions have
answers. The question I’m focusing on here has been hitting harder and harder the
more involved I become with social justice work at Brown: How can liberatory
movement-building bring us joy and energy instead of burnout and harm?
It may seem oxymoronic for work that moves towards liberation to actually often
be harmful and overwhelming, but my experience at Brown has already shown me just
how common those feelings are. If you think about it, it actually makes a lot of sense.
More often than not, we become involved in social justice work because we feel
personally connected to the liberatory end goal. When our communities are under
attack, we want to work to protect them. These are our lives, our families, our friends
who are being impacted. Our core values are being violated in the name of violence,
imperialism, capitalism, colonialism, and general assholery. That means that when we
enter organizing spaces, we are bringing our trauma and our difficult histories. We are
bringing our whole, vulnerable selves and our biggest fears and our dreams for a better
future. Just carrying all of that takes a massive amount of work. Now try carrying it all in
conjunction with everything the folks in your circles carry. Now try talking about it. Now
try organizing around it. Now try dealing with every obstacle the University throws at you
to make your movement fail. Now try doing all of that while attempting to pass your
classes, working a job, and maybe even taking care of yourself (a revolutionary
thought!) If any of that sounds easy to you, congratulations! You are stronger than I’ll
ever be and are probably secretly a superhero.
If all of that is true, is there any way that we can find joy and energy in fighting for
liberation and organizing for change? Whether an answer to that question even exists
depends entirely on who you ask and when you ask it. When I first asked myself that
question, I was surprised that I had never thought to ask it before. The abstract

153
concepts of burnout and healing existed in my consciousness, but never so closely tied
to movement building and the personal experiences of the people I care about. One of
the many issues with university organizing and the four-year turnover that erases any
semblance of stability is that oftentimes by the time we think to ask these questions, the
older leaders we want to ask have already graduated and moved on with their lives.
Even more often, the questions don’t occur to us until we have felt the harmful effects of
burnout for ourselves, leaving us stranded in our experiences without a clear
understanding of how we got there and how we can move forward.
As a Brown student, especially as somebody who engages in activism (whatever
that means), you will see firsthand the extent to which Brown’s love of flaunting their
progressiveness and appreciation for student activism is just a façade. It’s tiring as
heck. This piece is to reassure you that you are not alone in feeling tired, and to
encourage you to enter the alternate-universe of this University armed with the
questions and attitudes that just might carry you through. Since I don’t have the
answers, I am here to give you the next best thing: wisdom and reflections from people
who aren’t me. They took the time to share their three or four years of experience with
my deeply confused self, and for that I am eternally grateful. If you're feeling
confused/tired/overwhelmed/ hurt or anticipate that some time on this four-ish year road
you will end up feeling confused/tired/ overwhelmed/hurt, stick with me. We are all on
this wild ride together, but learning from our elder peers is one of the surest ways to
keep ourselves from getting thrown off the wagon. Maybe we can even build a safer
wagon altogether.
*****
BURNOUT
Reflections, Causes, and Experiences
A lot of burnout culture at Brown happens because of the four-year turnover. There’s no
keeping of knowledge. Every time something like this comes up we’re re-inventing the
wheel because people who have been having this conversation have tapped out or are
gone so they’re not in conversation with current students. It’s hard because
relationships and work can be very individualized, so one person has the connection or
the knowledge and when they’re gone you have no choice but to start all over again.
That elevates certain people in a way that’s dangerous and takes away from the work
that everyone could be doing. When I think about the Black Student Walkout, I think that
if people had access to things from past classes and resources, it would have made the
work a lot less taxing. It’s reaffirming and takes the burden off you because you have a
back end to what you’re saying that makes you feel legit.
*****

154
Burnout leads to a loss of community and an inability to create community. We also
need to think about how we define community, because your definition of community
can be very harmful and exclusive. There are communities you know you just cannot
exist in here. I’ve been super socially burnt out by the last couple of years because of
the idea of disposability in my communities. There’s a lot of people involved in social
activism for social capital, and it’s tiring to be in a space that continuously perpetuates
that narrative. That is connected to the conversation about community because when
people feel burnt out, they feel that their actions that hurt others are justified. How do we
create spaces and resources in community that allow people to heal from their burnout?
I don’t think Brown has the resources right now to do that. People end up self-isolating
as a mechanism to deal with it, because we aren’t able to do it in community with each
other.
*****
I see a cause of burnout being the conflict happening between students that are often
working towards the same goal or are in the same spaces and organizing with
progressive orientation. People are put in the position of having to self-preserve by
leaving the space and opportunities to do work that is important to them so they can
heal. It comes down to how labor gets distributed for particular people. There’s tons of
invisible labor that happens in organizing spaces and circles. Unless you’re really
careful, that labor goes unacknowledged, and there’s not enough recognition that
people are people and have other things going on. A lot of people also feel the need to
do a lot of things because they feel like the work won’t get done if they don’t do it. It
often comes as a part of being a member of a marginalized group–there’s that feeling of
‘if I don’t do the work for my marginalized group, it’s not going to happen, and our
experience won’t improve.’ So, we feel the burden of doing a lot of things all the time,
and then we burn out. People can be really intentional about how to preserve other
people’s health, but it’s often at the expense of their own. We need to learn to take care
of ourselves too.
*****
Avoiding burnout to me comes down to setting solid boundaries. A lot of people in
organizing spaces don’t know their boundaries and the differences between wants and
needs. It makes a lot of sense that these people can’t verbalize boundaries even to
themselves because a lot of the times they’re from marginalized identities and they’ve
always had their boundaries disrespected. Parenting in the US is really guilty of that,
like kids are forced to give hugs to strangers and be kind to people they don’t know.
Through a more critical lens, you can think about whose boundaries are most often
disrespected, like black women. So many people have gone through experiences like
that so they have a difficult time thinking about their boundaries.

155
My advice to incoming students is to separate themselves from grind culture–the culture
of going and going and hoping that things will be addressed on their own. You have to
address things or they will address you. It’s especially hard because at Brown it doesn’t
feel like you have the time or capacity for that. We are encouraged not to sleep or to
deprive ourselves of what we need to get shit done. Be proactive about it! College is a
unique experience where you live where you work and go to school, so there’s no
boundary between them. You need to give yourself a lot of time to pause and get ready
to address surprises, and to prioritize yourself when you have to choose.
*****
I’m a great example of burnout happening. I wouldn’t call myself a student organizer or
an activist. I was the kind of person that came to Brown and took on a lot of stuff
because I care about social justice and there are lots of things I can do. As I got busier
and depressed, I started feeling guilty about not being able to do everything I committed
to, but I also felt guilty after dropping those things to take care of myself. I’ve also
noticed how guilt manifests itself in organizing spaces. In my first two years, I did a lot of
stuff with the Asian American student organizations and tried to make changes, but I
would blame myself for things not working and then got tired of it.
*****
I think burnout happens when people aren’t able to prioritize themselves like they need,
and have not yet identified how to engage in self-care. I see it happening in activist
spaces when it’s the same people always doing the work. I was the coordinator for a
program I cared about a lot, but I couldn’t continue being in that role this year. What
made it difficult was that I was actually a very strong coordinator and I would pull my
own weight while other people didn’t. I saw that a lot of work tended to be placed on
women of color, especially black women. It was complicated because I gave so much to
the program and I genuinely loved it deeply. Being part of it was a labor of love. To be
working in a capacity where other people aren’t putting in the same energy can be
frustrating and it burned me out because I kept thinking, ‘If I don’t do it, who will?’
HARM AND HEALING
How can we address mistakes and actions that cause harm in our communities?
I think of this in the BIG Framework: How am I communicating my boundaries to
others, and maintaining integrity in a way that allows me to make generous
assumptions about other people? It’s easy to keep score with people who are making
mistakes. That’s not entirely wrong if you’re trying to address patterns, but if those
mistakes have already been addressed you are just contributing to the idea that every
mistake diminishes someone’s purity as an activist or person. The idea of diminishing
purity goes against the idea of liberation. In moments when it feels like we’re not

156
meeting our own needs, it feels hard to make generous assumptions about other
people. When somebody says something that feels oppressive, we jump to the idea that
they’re trying to harm us because we are acting on the assumption that everyone is for
themselves. We don’t always recognize that we’re assuming the worst because our own
needs still aren’t being met. If we invest in ourselves, we can be curious and
compassionate about why people are doing certain things instead of making
assumptions. That will allow us to have open conversations about mistakes that center
our relationships.
*****
For me, community healing is an anomaly. As of now, I’m not particularly interested or
comfortable with community healing. As much as I appreciate healing with other people,
I need to have time with myself to reflect and not be expected to take on someone
else’s emotional labor that automatically gets placed on you in the process of
community healing. There was a lot of conflict during my sophomore year and a lot of
attempts at community healing but I think everybody needs to heal individually first
before we can be strong for other people. Individual healing for me looks a lot like
thinking aloud and writing my thoughts because being able to see my thoughts and
self-speak allows me to process.
*****
At the basis, I think it’s all about fostering a sense of community. The word community
gets thrown around a lot, but people aren’t willing to do the work it takes to create it. If
everything you do is rooted in community, it makes it easier to turn to people and tell
them what they did and how it affected people. That empowers people who have been
harmed to be able to speak about it because they want to make things better. People
need to feel supported and connected from the very beginning. That starts with working
to build relationships with people, which is the only way to create sustainability in a
community or movement. When I think of where issues emerged from the black student
walkout, I think it’s from the fact that it was operating on the premise of a community
which doesn’t exist, allowing harm to take place on both sides. It’s difficult because
we’re seeing what organizers did to try and create some real change for a community
that they loved and then on the flip side we’re seeing people’s responses to that and
feeling that they were harmed and left out of the process We can move forward by
building relationships with people we’re organizing on behalf of, and with those who are
willing to take on the work to improve our experiences here. In doing that work, we can
look back and celebrate the moment as one where we looked in the mirror and asked
what we want our community to look like. If this is a community you want, you have to
think, ‘I don’t necessarily like the way they did it, how do I want to see improvement in
this community? How can I support?’
*****

157
Attitudes about making mistakes here have a lot to do with performativity and how we
fear what people think about us. A lot of the time the terms “organizing” and “activism”
are used as performative words people feel they can just throw around to look good
because of how many posts they’ve made, things they’ve done, events they’ve gone to,
or clubs they are a part of. How do you educate and hold people accountable without
playing into a performative narrative? A lot of times people just tell you to do better but
don’t know how you should do better. They’re just saying you should. I want to
emphasize that organizing and community building are not linear. Brown makes it seem
linear, especially when you’re being confronted by so many obstacles. All these
performative things make it seem like growth is linear, but growth doesn’t always have
to equate to progress.
*****
Working through harm together is possible, but it’s difficult because of this weird time
we’re in where call-out culture and cancelling are really “in” for a variety of reasons.
That makes it difficult when you make a mistake in organizing spaces because people
hold organizers and people with certain politics to a high standard. How people are held
accountable when they make mistakes is often really toxic. One of the best ways to
avoid being toxic is building friendships with the people you’re working with. If you’re not
friends with people, it’s easy to want to get rid of them when they cause harm. When
you’re friends, there’s a desire to build and grow together by addressing harm in the
community you’ve built.
*****
I’ve never been in a situation where there’s been harm and a whole process, but I’ve
been thinking a lot about how you perform guilt versus accountability. How do you hold
yourself accountable without making it something other people have to validate? I think
you have to be forgiving to yourself. Like, I am for all these things, but I can’t show up to
everything. I have to figure out where I can show up, when I’m present I can be very
present and let people know I appreciate what they’re doing.
ACCOUNTABILITY
What does it mean? What can it look like?
I hate that word! Nobody really knows what it means. It’s like ‘problematic,’ ‘pushback,’
and ‘discourse.’ I just hate those. Accountability for me just means saying ‘I’m sorry, I’ll
change my behavior and here’s how.’ The ‘here’s how’ doesn’t need to be said explicitly
because it should manifest in the form of action. Saying ‘thank you for holding me
accountable’ is not an apology, it’s just a way to recognize you were harmful without
actually doing or changing anything. So, I think accountability culture and the word
accountability are just ways for people to appear like they’re making a change when

158
they’re really not. I also don’t like public callouts as a form of accountability because
they can be really performative and just cause more harm to everyone. I spent so much
time being fearful of doing something wrong and being dragged, which is hard to live
with when it applies to every little thing you do. Individual conversations are powerful,
and confrontation doesn’t have to be a bad thing when it means having conversations
and working towards a goal with somebody to remedy a situation in an actual concrete
way.
*****
Accountability looks different for everyone, so people need to be honest about what
they mean by it. They need to honestly consider what they want and distinguish
between punishment and accountability. It’s not necessarily bad to say you want
someone to be punished, but that’s no transformative–they’re distinctive things. In
accountability processes we see there is a difference between punishment and
consequences. Actions have consequences, but we don’t have to create our own brand
of harm as a form of consequence. It’s not punishment to ask somebody who has
caused harm to step down from their role, especially if that person is seen as an
embodiment of a movement or goal. I also think it’s important to remember that
accountability processes aren’t inherently healing processes. You need to have both.
*****
Jessica: Accountability and guilt are very tied together, and often when you feel really
guilty it’s more useful to ask yourself how you can demonstrate accountability in your
actions. That can look like thinking about ways to reach out to people, redistribute
resources, and support in invisible ways. It’s important to be able to acknowledge when
certain forms of accountability aren’t plausible, and to notice other avenues for going out
and doing something helpful.
*****
Accountability can be so performative. How can you be accountable when you cause
harm without overcompensating for your mistake, which makes it seem not genuine?
We’ve internalized this narrative about accountability, community building, and healing
that is perpetuated by people who have the economic, physical, and mental capacity to
write academic pieces about them and implement them into charter schools run by
predominantly white boards and other institutions claiming liberalism and a social justice
lens perpetuated by white people. We need to name the fact that accountability and
community building were born out of communities of color. We need to revert back to
those origins by divesting from how we’ve learned and taught about these ideas. I came
to Brown thinking about community in a way that was taught to me by people who were
just performing. I internalized it as something that was simple with all these beautiful
terms people throw around. The necessary work that goes into healing needs to be

159
centered. It’s something that people of marginalized communities were never meant to
access.
*****
It’s not going to look the same across the board. It’s all relationship work. Ultimately, I
am always mindful of the relationships I have and other people have in order to do work
around accountability. Calling someone out in a public setting doesn’t do the work to
undo the harm someone did. But, I think that if somebody feels that they want to call out
someone in a public setting, it can be validating. It takes a lot of energy to muster up the
ability to say out loud, ‘you said something or did something that is really hurtful.’ It’s the
group’s responsibility to think about how to critically engage with the call out in a way
that is meaningful and changes the heart of the problem.
*****
Noelle: In spaces where we like everyone is well-intentioned and trusts each other,
accountability can look really chill. Somebody says something chill and then we talk
about it in recognition of our relationships to certain people. If person ‘X’ says something
weird and inappropriate or harmful and you don’t have the best relationship with that
person, someone with a better relationship with them can help educate, learn, grow, and
move forward with them. When those conversations are difficult, it’s best to identify the
best person with the capacity to talk to people about the harm through meaningful
engagement.
CHANGE
What changes would you like to see to the culture of organizing and community building
at Brown?
I wish people were less overextended. Being tired and overextended doesn’t serve
anyone. Sometimes people realize that burnout is coming and have this urgency to get
everything done now, which just makes thing worse. I want people to slow down and
concentrate on handing the baton. So much work goes into replicating things because
of bad or incomplete transfers of information, so a lot gets lost because of the four-year
cut-offs. If we got really good at sharing work and information across grade levels, it
would take a lot of the urgency away and stress people out less because there would be
trust that people will carry on the work they are doing.
*****
My mind goes to the classrooms when you’re young and first entering academic spaces
in elementary, middle, and high school. Disposability culture is normalized from a very
young age, when you make a mistake and are held in at recess or in a bigger way with
the school to prison pipeline. You come to Brown after 12 years of internalizing
disposability, but it’s jarring, isolating, and confusing to wait until you’re 18/19/20 to start

160
talking about healing. You’re stuck doing the labor of healing from the 12 preceding
years while trying to prepare for all the healing you’ll do in the future. We need to open
up honest conversations about healing with younger people and get over the idea that
kids aren’t ready to talk about it. Kids are the smartest people I’ve ever met. Your
happiness isn’t a priority within your classroom–why is that? Let’s talk about it. Kids
think that’s how it’s supposed to be, and go through school thinking unhappiness is
necessary. By including them in the conversation, we can give young people the agency
they deserve and make the process of divesting from the narrative of disposability so
much easier when we are grown.
*****
I want to see people showing up for each other in creative ways that also demonstrate
care. If there’s an action happening, what if other students got together and cooked
organizers food? There’s this idea that you have to show up and check all these boxes,
which is difficult because students have so many things to manage. It can be hard to
muster the energy to show up in a traditional way, but that’s not the only way we can be
showing care.
*****
I want to change the language that’s used. It’s great that I came to Brown and acquired
certain words like ‘micro-aggressions’ to explain what I have experienced before, but
I’ve built up all this language that is very specific to elite institutions. People at home
don’t use terms like ‘accountability.’ Why are we using words that can’t connect to
people outside of the institution? I don’t remember what it was like to talk about my
experiences without using all these buzzwords. Swap “accountability” out with “I’m
sorry.” We don’t need to use language we can only use in elite social justice-y spaces.
We’re not going to be at Brown forever, so we’re not going to be talking like this forever.
I’m thinking about how I’m going to take what I learned at Brown and talk about them in
a non-Brown way. There’s no point in learning tools to take back to my community if
there is going to be such a big language barrier.
*****
I used to think every single space and community should be political. Being a part of
organizing spaces becomes a social life and creates a sense of belonging. In one way,
it’s nice to be in community with people who have similar values and visions of the
world. But I’m wondering, is there a space where people of marginalized communities
can just exist together without a political aspect? There’s a perception that everyone
has to be doing something that is a form of resistance. The more you do, the more
popular you are. The work you’re recognized as doing determines if you have friends
and are respected. That’s where I think the connection between activism and social life
at Brown is a problem.
*****

161
I want to change the idea that it’s only “us.” There are more ways to integrate the
administration, Providence community members, and grad students in this work so
there’s a network that lives beyond you. You can get a lot of things done by building
relationships with people with institutional power. If your work engages more types of
people more robustly, it’s harder for people like Christina Paxson to write it off as
“fringe.” It comes down to building those connections and developing them in a way that
outlives you and passing them down to the next generation of black students at Brown,
POC at Brown, etc. It’s also important that we keep emphasizing that everything that
students don’t have to do all the work. If you’re talking about preventing harm, you need
to turn to adults who are tasked with that as part of their job.
*****
So, what have we learned? The diversity in these reflections demonstrates just
how unique our approaches to healing, organizing, and self-care can be. There is no
one right path or perspective. Without concrete answers, what can we do? Keep these
perspectives in mind as you move forward in your journey at Brown and beyond. Take
note of the ideas that speak to you and hold them close as you begin to engage in these
issues for yourself. Pay close attention to your boundaries and feelings to aid in your
development of personal self-care practices. Be proactive. Be compassionate. Be
curious. Be kind to yourself and to others. Ask yourself why you engage in the work you
engage in, and consider the future you imagine arising from that work. Make meaningful
connections with folks of different ages and experiences. Invest in self-discovery.
Remember that an elite social justice vocabulary means much less than some people
say it does. Prioritize your personal wellbeing, whatever that may look like to you.
Until we take the time to consider the barriers that stand in the way of our
individual liberation, the movements we build together will not be sustainable. If you are
not sure how to start doing any of these things, don’t worry! We are all constantly in the
process of introspection and growth, and our first attempts at self-care are not always
successful. Sometimes, our second, third, and fourth attempts aren’t either. Especially if
you, like so many others, have never been confronted with the possibility of centering
your needs and building a community that is meaningful to you, this is a major
transition. You are not alone in feeling overwhelmed.
Much love,
Sara
My endless gratitude goes out to Andy, Jessica, Ly, Nana, Noëlle, and Uche for
having these conversations with me and allowing me to share them with you all.

162

“Education either functions as an instrument which is used to facilitate
integration of the younger generation into the logic of the present system
and bring about conformity or it becomes the practice of freedom, the
means by which men and women deal critically and creatively with reality
and discover how to participate in the transformation of their world.”
– Paulo Freire

163

A Note on Healing
By Ly Dang
To love, to be in community, to hope, to heal--these terms often find themselves in association
with radical action. To disorient ourselves from the dominant narratives, from the white winners,
and from the institutional and internalized oppressive systems that have been built for the
purpose of exclusion and succeeding in praxis, is to love and act radically. We were never meant
to love, to be in community, to hope, or to heal. Our existence alone is defying that misinformed
reality. The purposes of this note on healing come two-fold: to share my own reconciliations
with healing, and for myself to continue to heal as an individual, as well as to interrogate ways in
which I can stand with and for my communities. For you as a reader, I welcome you to engage
with my reflections and ask yourselves these questions as I write along.
In my reflections, healing has been synonymous with homecoming and home-building. As an
aspiring classroom educator, my reconciliations have been mainly grounded in my role within
the classroom as an educator, student, and observer. However, I have found that similar to other
spaces, the classroom itself is a microcosm of our existence and pursuit of finding community.
I continue to find myself on a journey of reconciling the concept of home with the images,
feelings, and memories the word itself evokes in me. My definition continues to develop and
refine itself as I internalize another year of memories and interactions with the people I meet and
the spaces I occupy. I currently see home as a space, though not necessarily physical, that fosters
healing, both for myself and for others.
My favorite corner store from childhood sold the best banh cam (sesame ball with mung bean
filling) and banh mi thit nguoi (vietnamese baguette with a decadent hand-whipped mayonnaise
and homemade cold cuts). The low prices to feed my cravings outweighed the long walk from
school I took with my sister almost every week. We would find our ways to the storefront and
scurry around the small store in hopes of avoiding the crowd of nosy neighbors talking to Bà
Hai, the neighborhood Auntie, and the occasional distant relative we would only see at the yearly
Tet celebration or extravagant backyard wedding. Regardless of my desire to grab my goodies
and escape, I have been a witness to a deep and genuine love and demands for our community to
do and be better. This is home for me.
My mother, father, and sister play the roles of the corner store Auntie, the uncle who
prepares warm meals in anticipation of school letting out, and the mischievous cousin who would
sneakily replace my bag of fruit chews with a packet of wasabi peas. My family is my sanctuary,
my sliver of my country now only visible through a pixelated Viber video call or bent photographs
arriving in lost-and-found packages, not through the histories reproduced in our academic
institutions. This is home for me.

164

My post-secondary education as a student has been debilitating and invalidating in many
forms. While I purposefully choose not to invest much space in this note to share these hurtful
moments, I choose to consider more importantly, what has my existence at this institution
allowed me to realize what I work to divest from and what I choose to invest in. In reflection of
my educational journey, my tumultuous yet formative moments of schooling often reflect many
similar experiences from others who may share aspects of my narrative in predominantly white
institutions. Beyond this reality, I reconciled with many “I did nots’.” I did not attend a class in
the U.S. with an educator who looked like me, or who was even an educator of color until my
first semester of college. I did not have the opportunity to engage in discussions grounded in a
commitment to social justice until my first year of college. I did not speak my home language at
school until my first year of college. This time of learning and reciprocity alongside my
communities, my families, and my students has been a time for me to support myself and others
in the processes of self and collective growth. This is home for me.
In each of these moments, actions, and memories, I am working to weave my own personal
narrative of home, identity, and belonging.

165

“Caring for myself is not self indulgence. It is self-preservation,
and that is an act of political warfare.”
– Audre Lorde

166

#BurnBrown
an abolitionist orientation to the university
  cannot be denied that the university is a place of refuge, and it cannot be accepted
“It
that the university is a place of enlightenment. In the face of these conditions one can
only sneak into the university and steal what one can. To abuse its hospitality, to spite
its mission, to join its refugee colony, its gypsy encampment, to be in but not of—this is
the path of the subversive intellectual in the modern university.”

– Fred Moten and Stefano Harney

At the time of writing:
● The spinning of Brown’s corporate web endures.
● Shady and nepotistic admissions practices are abound.
● Staff mistreatment and disposability have reached a boiling point.
● Neocolonial control of Providence persists, and parasitism is custom.
● Defenses of climate destruction and oppressive technology are a constant.
● Demands for reparations remain wholly unfulfilled and insolently dismissed.90
Brown is a business, is a corporation, is an enterprise. And it always has been. The
university serves to credentialize wealthy, white people – and a selection of poor and
colored tokens – so that they can amass and hoard wealth; it strives to ensure that the
rich stay educated and the poor stay locked out of high-salaried jobs. This is the
essence of its operation. It is not an unforeseen consequence of a poorly executed idea,
and it is not a necessary evil in the pursuit of knowledge. It is the purpose of the private
university. Brown and the like exist so as to reproduce unjust hierarchies, to monopolize
knowledge and information, and to stifle radical organizing in the Providence community
and beyond. Very simply, Brown and the like exist to sustain capitalism.91
No amount of reform can bring the private university to meet standards of freedom or
justice when its essence is corrupt, immoral, and oppressive. If we are invested in ideals
of freedom and justice, then we must acknowledge that the abolition of Brown University
is a necessary part of liberatory politics. This is not to say that nothing of value takes
place at Brown or that we should dispose of everything that lives within its walls. The
90
91

Here’s a cluster of texts related to Brown’s corrupt, immoral, and oppressive conduct.
Here’s a cluster of texts related to the theory of social reproduction.

167
words of Soniya Munshi and Craig Willse in the Foreword of The Revolution Will Not Be
Funded are particularly instructive when thinking about how to navigate this tension:
There is nothing we would want to save from the military and the prison when
they are destroyed. But there may be much we want to save in the ... university.
Our task then is to think about how to nurture these elements to prepare them for
their lives outside their current institutional forms.
What follows is a conjecture about how we can (metaphorically) burn away the
institutional form and nurture the beauty that lives within.
Daddy’s Wallet | the budget of the university
Despite a strong ethical case, the university is not going to stop operating because of
the moral epiphany of a few administrators. Like any other business, it will only cease to
function when it’s no longer profitable – or in the case of a “non-profit” private university,
when it’s no longer able to support the six and seven digit salaries of its senior
administrators or the financial interests of the Corporation members.92 With this in mind,
our analysis of the university’s abolition might be enhanced by considering the financial
health of the university and how to manipulate it.
When thinking about the university's financial health, a helpful place to start is with its
operational budget. The operational budget lays out the university's revenues and
expenses as they are related to the everyday function of the university. Operational
expenses include things like employee wages and benefits, financial aid, and general
operating expenses (think office supplies, furniture, computers, etc). Operational
revenues include things like tuition, donations to the Brown Annual Fund, the
endowment payout, etc.93
There are two important lessons that can be gleaned from the university’s operational
budget:
1. According to the most recent URC Reports, staff salaries account for nearly 20%
of the university's operational expenses, and this 20% belongs disproportionately

92

Is it a coincidence that Brown provides HBO to all of its students when Bernadette Aulestia, president of
Global Distribution for HBO, sits on the Corporation? These "coincidences" are not uncommon at Brown,
and it's worth asking whether they translate into financial gains for the Corporation members involved.
93
Operational budgets should not be confused with capital budgets. Capital budgets pertain to larger
institutional ventures like new buildings on campus or projects like the Brown Promise.

168
to its most senior administrators.94 This fact is the result of a trend that emerged
in the US during the 1960s and that is well documented by Benjamin Ginsberg in
his book The Fall of The Faculty: the growth of university administrations.
Ginsberg writes:
Administrative growth may be seen primarily as a result of efforts by
administrators to aggrandize their own roles in academic life. Students of
bureaucracy have frequently observed that administrators have a strong
incentive to maximize the power and prestige of whatever office they hold
by working to increase its staff and budget. To justify such increases, they
often invent new functions to perform or seek to capture functions
currently performed by others.
Put another way, the continued expansion of university administrations has been
motivated by the financial and professional interests of their senior
administrators, and by extension, these administrators have a huge stake in the
financial health of the university because a great deal of its funds support the
decoration of their CVs and the furnishing of their pockets.
Now like never before, Brown's governance has come to be dominated by the
perverse financial and professional interests of its senior administrators as
opposed to the academic and educational interests of the students and faculty.
At Brown, the university’s finances dictate the behaviour of the
administration. Consequently, the university's administration will attempt to stifle
and undermine any political organizing that it sees as a threat to the university’s
financial health, and the strength of its response to social movements is likely to
be proportional to the damage that those movements could do to the budget. For
example, President Paxson’s categorically undemocratic responses to
divestment movements are symptomatic of the fact that divestment actually
threatens to reduce the endowment payout and shrink the university’s
operational budget. A similar analysis could be made of her anti-union remarks in
response to the question of graduate student unionization. For the university’s
senior administrators, it’s all about the bottom line and protecting their salaries.95
94

To put the lopsidedness of the distribution into perspective, the university employs around 3000 staff
members, and while it costs roughly $200 million to employ all of them (about $66,000 per person),
Christina Paxson “earned” $1,540,707 in compensation for fiscal year 2017. In that same year, just 10 of
the university’s highest paid administrators (less than 0.01% of the total staff) “earned” $8,722,928 in
compensation (around 4% of the total staff income).
95
It’s worth noting that many of the university’s senior administrators are instruments of the Corporation,
and as such, they represent not just their own personal financial interests but those of the Corporation.

169

2. Brown is tuition-dependent. That is, a large portion of the university’s revenue
– about 37% in fiscal year 2018 – comes from its net tuition fees. This means
that the university’s financial health is vulnerable to changes in the market price
for tuition (which has yet to be a problem, given that tuition has been rising
steadily for decades) and the fraction of accepted students that choose to
matriculate. The university’s finances would be less sensitive to these changes if
a larger portion of its revenue came from the endowment payout, which happens
to be the case at institutions like Princeton, Yale, and Harvard. That said, given
what we know about how the university’s finances shape the behaviour of the
administration, it becomes clear that the administration is uniquely focused on
maximizing the fraction of accepted students that matriculate, growing the
endowment, and increasing its payout. This is evidenced by President Paxson
making statements like, “[the endowment] must be protected during this time of
volatile financial markets.” This also explains why most of BrownDivest’s actions
and rallies have received negligible administrative retaliation, except their 2019
demonstration during ADOCH, which threatened to bring down the fraction of
students that matriculated and, by extension, the university’s operational
revenues. It’s all about the bottom line.
University

Brown

Columbia

Cornell

Dartmouth

Harvard

Princeton

UPenn

Yale

% of
Operational
Revenue from
Endowment
Payout in FY18

16%

9%

8%

26%

35%

65%

6%

33%

% of
Operational
Revenue from
Net Tuition and
Fees in FY18

37%

24%

17%

25%

22%

5%

10%

10%

Working toward political goals that create budgetary stress will be an important
organizing principle for those interested in Brown’s abolition, but we’ll return to this idea
shortly. The tuition dependence of schools like Brown create a unique possibility when
thinking about the abolition of private universities more broadly. If the market price for
college tuition were to collapse, so would the budget of all tuition-dependent private
universities, and this is precisely why the higher education price bubble is the key to the
abolition of the private university.

170

Blowing Bubbles | the price of an education and why it matters
Time to put your economist hat on! A price bubble occurs when an asset’s price
significantly exceeds its intrinsic value. When people who own the asset notice that it's
not worth as much as everyone thinks it is, they try to sell the asset before other people
make the same realization. Eventually, more and more people who have invested in the
asset realize it’s not worth the price. Widespread knowledge of this discrepancy will
trigger a bout of panic selling. Panic selling refers to the sudden, wide-scale sale of an
asset, where owners try to sell the asset in an attempt to save some of the money they
initially invested before prices fall any further. With everyone selling and nobody buying,
the price of the asset collapses. Bubble popped!
You can think about the education that Brown provides to its students as an asset.
Students and their families purchase the asset by paying tuition and a range of other
fees, but more and more people are asking the question: is the education we’re paying
for actually worth the cost?
The Value of a Degree
For the purposes of our analysis, the value of a degree can be broken into three
component parts: knowledge value, network value, and employment value. Together
these things constitute the total value of a degree.
● Knowledge Value represents the knowledge and skills that a person acquires
while they are getting their degree. Knowledge however is not something that is
easily excludable. Big thanks to the internet, most knowledge that’s acquired in a
university setting is just as easily acquired online. Skill acquisition is similar. With
the exception of hands-on skills that require expensive equipment, things like
language and programming skills can easily be developed online. A person might
argue that universities are a more credible or reliable source of information than
online alternatives, but once again, it is difficult to exclude people from the
credible and reliable information that’s generated by universities. Resources like
edX and CourseHero are accessible to anyone with a computer and an internet
connection. Furthermore, the educational benefits associated with bringing
students together in the same physical space are, to an increasing extent, being
replicated online through social media, online forums, and video conferencing
platforms. For these reasons, the knowledge value of a person’s degree is

171
negligible. There’s virtually no knowledge or information that a person could get
during their time in college that they can’t get elsewhere.
● Network Value represents the personal and professional relationships that a
person builds while they are getting their degree. For the purposes of our
analysis, the network of relationships that a person builds during college is
valuable only insofar as that network can be leveraged to access other things of
value (i.e. employment opportunities, mentorship, financial support, career
advice, professional vouching, letters of recommendation, etc). A relevant
framework for understanding the network value of a degree is Pierre Bourdieu’s
conception of social capital, which he defines as:
The aggregate of the actual or potential resources which are linked to
possession of a durable network of more or less institutionalized
relationships of mutual acquaintance and recognition – or in other words,
to membership in a group – which provides each of its members with the
backing of the collectivity-owned capital, a ‘credential’ which entitles them
to credit, in the various senses of the word.
This is undoubtedly a non-negligible part of a degree’s value; however, value is
contingent on the formation of relationships with individuals who have access to
other valuable resources that might be shared or exchanged. As one might
expect, the relationships that are formed by students at “elite” colleges are
mediated, to some extent, by social identity, which can lead to the formation of
inequities of network value that are based on race and class.96 It goes without
saying that the nature and monetary value of resources that are shared and
exchanged among a fraternity of affluent white guys are bound to look different
than those moving through a group of students at a Low-Income Center.97
● Employment Value represents the increased likelihood of employment and
potential earnings that a person can expect after they’ve completed their degree.
This is perhaps the most significant component of a degree’s value and certainly
the most easily quantified. First, study after study has found that unemployment
rates among college graduates are consistently lower than unemployment rates
among people without a college degree. Second, while studies show that college
96

Here’s a cluster of texts related to the race and class dynamics of college social networks.
This is not to say that there is no value in the networks formed by low-income students or students of
color. Rather, this is to say that the wealth that exists within affluent, white networks is likely to exceed
and be kept from low income students and students of color.
97

172
graduates can expect an income premium (i.e. higher incomes than their
non-degree holding counterparts), the size of the premium is incredibly
dependent on the graduate’s major. In a 2015 report from Georgetown
University’s Center on Education and the Workforce, researchers found that
there was a salary gap of nearly $40,000 between the highest and lowest paid
college majors (engineering/architecture and education respectively). But here’s
the real tea, a 2019 study by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis showed that
income premiums have been falling slowly for several decades and that wealth
premiums have essentially collapsed, presumably because of rising tuition costs
and the accompanying debt burdens. In particular, the expected wealth premium
for white families headed by a person who was born in the 1980s and received a
Bachelor’s degree is at an all time low. For Black families, it’s statistically
indistinguishable from zero! You’d be right to wonder what good an income
premium is if it only goes toward financing the debt you acquired to secure the
premium in the first place.

Economist hat off (or keep it on if you’re nasty like that)! This is an incredibly crude and
economic analysis of a degree’s value. Of course, the relationships that we make and
the care that we receive are valuable in and of themselves regardless of whether they
can be leveraged to get other things! That said, attending university is not a
precondition for making meaningful friendships or life-long memories nor is it a
precondition for expanding your intellectual horizons, contrary to what some advertising
might have you believe. These things can and do happen outside of the university all
the time. The university is just here to provide you with a credential. To say that you did

173
it. To say that you’re smarter than the next person because you were wealthy enough to
cover the cost or low-risk enough to get it for free.98
So, is there a higher education price bubble? Are people going to stop paying hundreds
of thousands of dollars for degrees from private universities? Is it all worth it? Maybe.
Maybe not.99 The answer will depend significantly on the expected network and
employment value that a person’s degree carries and how much they have to pay for it,
but for more and more people, the answer is a resounding, “No!” Smaller liberal arts
colleges all over the Unites States have been closing because of falling enrollment, and
things don’t look like they’ll be getting better any time soon.100 Harvard Business School
professor Clayton Christensen
predicts that half of all US
colleges will be bankrupt in 10 to
15
years.101
Further
still,
COVID-19 and the rise of Zoom
University have poked serious
holes in the logic of our current
educational
paradigm.
The
backdrop for all of this is that
while tuition costs have been
climbing steadily throughout the
neoliberal era, real wages have
stagnated and debt burdens
continue to get larger and larger.
Something has to give, and as
we watch the social, political, and
economic turmoil all around us,
it's evident that things are going
to start to give now!102

98

Yes, they think we’re low risk! “Students who acquire large debts putting themselves through school are
unlikely to think about changing society. When you trap people in a system of debt, they can't afford the
time to think.” – Noam Chomsky.
99
Here’s a cluster of texts related to the value of a degree and the higher education price bubble.
100
Here’s a cluster of texts related to recent college and university closures.
101
To track the closing and merging of public and private universities, look no further.
102
The turmoil I’m referring to is the economic depression (and period of secular stagnation – yikes even
worse) we’re likely about to enter, COVID-19, nationwide protests against police brutality, rising inequality,
the pervasiveness of rape and sexual assault, the ticking time bomb that is climate change and pension
collapse, the rise of Big Brother surveillance, and the incredible amount of violence that’s enacted on
trans femmes of color – just to name a few things.

174
But if the bubble pops, we can’t get caught sitting around. If we want to abolish Brown
University and the like, we need to create strong alternatives, and we can’t just wait to
decide the details in the vacuum created by their absence because that vacuum will
never come. Capitalism and the institutions that sustain it have endured for centuries
because of their capacity to adapt, and the modern, private university is no less capable
of adaptation. You best believe the administration is poised to protect this shit at all
costs! And so as we hop from a mainstream economist’s bubble pop theory to a Leninist
Dual Power strategy, we need to think about how we can smash the status quo while
simultaneously securing the economic and ideological breathing room to build the
institutions of our wildest dreams.
Education but Make it for the People | alternatives to the private university
The abolition of Brown University is a story that would probably go something like this:
as it became apparent to young people that degrees in anything other than engineering,
computer science, or pre-med were unlikely to create any real advantage on the job
market, Brown’s enrollment dwindled and students decided to pursue educational
opportunities that, until recently, were relegated to the nerdiest and most Bernie-like
corners of society. The following is a list of possible alternatives to the modern, private
university.
● Free Public College and University: The first and most obvious alternative to
the private university is free public college and university. This concept has
become a part of the mainstream political discourse in the US thanks, in part, to
Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaigns. According to the Sanders campaign
platform, tuition could be eliminated at colleges and universities all across the US
for about $48 billion a year. To get a sense of scale, the federal government
spends about $600 billion a year on the military, and just spent $2.8 trillion in
response to COVID-19 (in addition to the injection of trillions of dollars in
monetary stimulus from the Federal Reserve). The government is more than
capable of financing free public college and university. Further, at the risk of
receiving eye rolls from orthodox economists, I’d encourage people who are still
concerned about the cost of programs like this to explore Modern Monetary
Theory (MMT). It provides a helpful framework (if somewhat controversial) for
understanding why the United States is entirely capable of financing a project
that’s such a small fraction of the federal budget.
● Free Online Education: In the wake of Zoom University à la coronavirus, free
online education platforms complete with verified certification mechanisms are

175
becoming a more and more enticing concept. These types of platforms already
exist but often have a cost associated with them if they include a certificate;
popular examples include Khan Academy, edX, Coursera, and Udemy. Colleges
and universities across the US have also seen a sustained increase in the
number of students enrolling online with a 263% increase from 2004 to 2016.103
In large part, the infrastructure for a substantial free online education system
already exists. The barrier to widespread use is the cost wall for accessing
certificates, diplomas, and degrees. One solution could be the proliferation of
government subsidies available for pursuing online certifications. Another
solution could involve regional cooperative finance schemes, where communities
finance students' education in exchange for labor commitments.104 Think
organized crowd-sourcing! A third solution to the cost wall might be the
emergence of a massive open online course (MOOC) platform with credentials
that are well-respected and that hold real employment value. Think the free and
open source software movement but for education.105 Fortunately, the
employment value of online educational alternatives seems to be on the rise
according to a survey of CEOs and small business owners, 83% of whom say
that online degrees are just as credible as those acquired through traditional
means.
● Independent Educational Institutions: Perhaps the most exciting alternative is
the possibility of independent educational institutions. Below are some possibility
models that are worth more exploration:
● Mondragon University: While Mondragon University has a governance
structure that’s comparable to other private universities, Mondragon
University is a worker cooperative owned collectively by the teachers,
researchers, and staff at the university. Mondragon University is also a
part of the Mondragon Corporation, which is the largest federation of
worker cooperatives in the world.106 A worker cooperative is essentially a
business that is owned and managed by its workers. What makes
Mondragon University an exciting possibility model is (1) its existence
within a federation of cooperatives that are successfully competing against
businesses that engage in capitalist modes of production and (2) its

103

Here’s a cluster of texts related to the rise of online education.
If you’re interested in cooperative finance, check out this anthology!
105
Conversely, resist attempts by corporate giants like Amazon and Google to provide online education!
106
Don’t be scared by the word Corporation! it just means a group of people allowed to act as a single
legal entity.
104

176
commitment to meeting the knowledge and labor related needs of the
cooperative federation and society more broadly.
● Freedom Library Day School: In 1964, John E. Churchville founded the
Philadelphia Freedom Library in a Ridge Avenue storefront in North
Philadelphia. The library functioned as a Black community center
committed to social change, and it was populated with thousands of books
related to Black history and politics. During the library’s infancy,
Churchville started to offer evening classes, and eventually, the library was
converted into a day school that stayed open until 1978. The curriculum
for the school was dedicated to building the political consciousness of
young Black people and equipping them with skills to struggle against
racial injustice. The Freedom Library Day School is an exciting possibility
model because while it served as an educational space it was also a site
of radical organizing in the city of Philadelphia (although this did lead to an
FBI raid on the school in 1966 that prompted Churchville to remove
himself from more radical activism).
● The Stelton Modern School: In 1910, following the murder of anarchist
pedagogue Francisco Ferrer, a group of New York anarchists began
organizing around the possibility of a school that would follow Ferrer’s
model. Not unlike the beginnings of the Freedom Library Day School, the
group started an evening school that eventually expanded into a day
school. On account of a bomb plot and police infiltration, the day school
was relocated to a colony in Stelton, New Jersey in the mid-1910s. The
principalship and ideological flavor of the school fluctuated a great deal,
and there were several bouts of inactivity and dwindling enrollment, but
the school existed for nearly 40 years until it closed in 1953. Stelton’s
history is unique, in part, because it was one of the first anarchist colonies
built specifically to accommodate a school. Not without its flaws, Stelton is
a helpful framework for thinking through the details of what a
semi-isolated, radical boarding school might look like.
● Paulo Freire Freedom Schools: Inspired by the 1960s Freedom Schools
and the pedagogical work of Paulo Freire, the Paulo Freire Freedom
Schools were opened in 2005. Located in Tucson, Arizona, the Paulo
Freire Freedom Schools are a particularly inspiring possibility model
because they’re a contemporary example of a school that resists the
“banking model of education” that’s critiqued in Freire’s book, Pedagogy of

177
the Oppressed. With a commitment to the values of social and
environmental justice, students are encouraged to engage in thought that
contradicts the logics of white supremacy, capitalism, and patriarchy.
While this isn’t uncommon at private universities, the Paulo Freire
Freedom Schools can help us think through what it might look like to (1)
organize a school around the philosophy espoused in Freire’s writing and
(2) bring the values of social and environmental justice to academic
disciplines that are typically devoid of such considerations.
● Summerhill School: In 1921, Alexander Sutherland Neill founded
Summerhill School, an independent boarding school modelled after his
principle of “freedom, not license.” Summerhill School is an appealing
possibility model because of its democratic organizational structure.
Summerhill School is a self-governing community and allows for the equal
participation of students in decisions that affect their daily lives, and while
Summerhill students do not participate in the “business side” of things, this
model provides a blueprint for what meaningful self-governance could look
like at a university.
● Mississippi Freedom Summer: In the summer of 1964, the Council of
Federated Organizations (COFO) executed the Freedom Summer project,
which consisted of more than 40 Freedom Schools being set up in Black
communities throughout Mississippi with the purpose of expanding the
political consciousness of Black youth and encouraging them to participate
in the Civil Rights Movement. The program was attended by more than
2500 students that summer. This is an incredible organizational feat, and
serves as a model for large scale mobilizations around political education.
Moreover, its curriculum is incredibly dialogic! How lit would it be to ditch
the lecture-style format of the Third World Transition Program (TWTP),
turn it into a summer-length, Freedom School-esque retreat, and gradually
build up its capacity so that it could function as its own year-round
university? Third World University!
The proliferation of the alternatives presented above in combination with widespread
knowledge of the (arguably) diminishing value of a degree will ultimately induce the
collapse of tuition costs at private universities and, by extension, their budgets. The
reign of the private university, the myth of Ivy League superiority, and all of the bullshit
prestige will finally come to an end.

178
Pouring the Gasoline | how to organize around the university’s abolition
Based on the information presented above, what follows is a set of principles to help
guide organizing that is devoted to (or in support of) the abolition of Brown University.
● Hit them where it hurts! Creating budgetary stress is absolutely essential if we
want to limit Brown’s operational capacity and potentially force it into bankruptcy.
107
Below is a non-exhaustive list of tactics for doing just that.
Politicize as many donations as possible: protesting donations is an excellent
way to reduce the university’s revenue and doing so in a public way will
discourage other potential donors from making contributions to the university. A
fantastic example of this is the Warren Kanders Must Go campaign by
EJ@Brown. To boot, if you want to make a little money while you’re messing with
the university’s finances, apply to be a student caller for the Brown Annual Fund
and be really bad at your job.
Sabotage admissions: lowering matriculation rates is an easy way to take
advantage of the university’s tuition-dependence. Tactics for admissions
sabotage include: encouraging prospective students to consider other schools,
particularly those that resemble the alternatives suggested above; disrupting
admissions activities like ADOCH or campus tours; and zoom bombing
admissions webinars.
Smear the university’s reputation: smearing the reputation of the university will
aid in both discouraging donations and reducing matriculation. Smear tactics
include: launching social media campaigns or producing videos that are critical of
the university and amplifying them in creative ways (e.g. anonymous posts on
popular pages like Brown Bears Admirers, structuring engagement to manipulate
news feed position in advance, starting live streams to effectively send
notifications to all of a person's followers, leaking to mainstream press, etc);
writing and distributing op-eds and essays that critique the university; linking to
critical articles on the university’s wikipedia page to increase their PageRank and
visibility in search results; creating social media bots to hijack the university’s
social media campaigns.

107

It’s also worth noting that beyond simply limiting the operational capacity of the university, hitting the
university where it hurts will also provide leverage during negotiation for organizers who have demands
that they’d like to make of the institution.

179
Manipulate institutional statistics connected to our ranking: similar to smearing,
working to lower the university’s ranking is another easy way to reduce donations
and matriculation. Most ranking methodologies are a weighted sum of
institutional statistics (that don’t change much year-to-year), and if organizers are
able to target and manipulate some of those statistics, this could pose a real
threat to the university’s prestige. For example, the 2018 methodology for the
Times World University Rankings stipulated that 30% of a school’s score would
come from its research influence (i.e. citations). If there are researchers at the
university engaged in oppressive research, it might be worth trying to launch an
academic boycott against their work, thereby reducing the university’s research
influence and possibly its ranking.
Support divestment campaigns: divestment campaigns are likely to reduce the
endowment payout because many of the companies targeted by these
campaigns are wildly profitable and promise high returns for the endowment.
Thus, divestment campaigns of any sort are an effective way to reduce the
endowment payout and limit the university’s operational capacity.108
Demand that Brown pay property taxes and reparations: property taxes and
reparations are another straightforward way to limit the university’s budget. As a
“non-profit” institution, Brown is exempt from paying property taxes to the city of
Providence. Instead, Brown voluntarily provides a payment in lieu of taxes
(PILOT) of about $4 million dollars per year (as of 2012). In contrast, if Brown
were responsible for paying commercial real estate tax, it would owe the city an
estimated $38 million dollars per year!109 In a similar vein and given the findings
of the infamous Slavery and Justice report, Brown should be resposible for more
than just property taxes. At a moral minimum, the university should be made to
provide a substantial program of reparations to Black and Indigenous
communities in Providence, a responsibility that it continues to shirk. The recent
movement for reparations at Georgetown University provides a helpful model for
thinking through what a movement like this might look like at Brown.
Funnel money out of the university: while funnelling money doesn’t necessarily
limit the university’s budget in a sustained way, it does allow for the university’s
resources to be used in ways that challenge the status quo. Therefore, given
Brown’s parasitic relationship to the city of Providence, people with budgetary
108

You should also support divestment campaigns because the targets of these campaigns are often
engaged in incredibly violent and oppressive behavior.
109
$38 million dollars was an estimate from 2012, but it has likely risen over the last 8 years!

180
control (or the ability to request and access funding) should redirect as much
money as possible to poor and working-class people in Providence, the
Providence Public School District, and radical organizing taking place in the city.
And if you’re worried about getting caught: don’t! So much of the money that
moves through the university is no strings attached, and if necessary, you can
get creative in justifying your expenses!
Advocate for a tuition freeze: rather intuitively, a tuition freeze (nominal or
inflation-adjusted) would prevent Brown from continuing to extort more and more
money from its students.
● Invest in and build up alternatives now! Create competitive institutions that
make the decision not to work at or attend Brown easier and easier. Support
movements for free public college and university. Start study groups or
community centers and grow them into institutions like the Freedom Library Day
School or Mondragon University. For people who go on to work as hiring
managers, evaluate candidates on their capacity to do the work that is asked of
them and allow people to demonstrate that capacity in a multitude of ways (i.e.
through certificates, work history, diplomas, portfolios, etc). Remember that
graduates from “elite” institutions aren’t all they’re cracked up to be, and quit
bending the knee to the almighty Ivy degree!
● Protect the livelihoods of workers and marginalized people in this
institution! The objective of this political orientation is to improve peoples’ lives,
and this objective must continue to be the centerpiece of all #BurnBrown-esque
organizing. That said, one of the first critiques that is usually launched in
response to political movements that limit the university’s budget is that students
on financial aid or precarious, temporary workers will be disposed of first. And
this is probably true! For this reason, we must engage in advocacy that protects
the material interests of vulnerable workers and students that are wrapped up in
Brown in the here and now. Support unionization and struggles like
#SaveTheBCSC. Resist layoffs for vulnerable staff and faculty members. Fight to
protect and expand financial aid for low-income students, and do so in a way that
is collective and not limited by shame or individualism. If and when these things
fail, support students and workers in their lives outside of the institution. Help
people secure decent work and housing. Live what it means “to be in and not of”
the university. And perhaps most of all, encourage others who are considering
Brown to think about the alternatives. Remind prospective students that social
mobility indexes are incredibly low at Brown and that their chances of receiving

181
some of the highest employment value degrees is much higher at other
institutions (especially for Black and Latinx students). Remind them that “elite”
colleges are sites of indoctraction where students often abandon their aspirations
to fight against social and economic injustice. Remind them that their worth is not
defined by the school that they chose to attend when they were 18. Remind them
that they deserve better and that better is possible.
● Coordinate with students at other universities! Brown is not unique. As a
former student organizer there, I chose to center Brown in this analysis, but the
#BurnBrown orientation can and should be applied to private universities all
across the US. Bearing this in mind, a broader movement to abolish the private
university might run into problems if it lacks coordination. For example, if
students from a large number of schools organize around the goal of
encouraging prospective students to choose other universities, this might result
in what is effectively a swap of student populations as opposed to a fall in the
student population of any one university. Thus, a more coordinated approach
might include the sequential targeting of universities so that students at some
schools are working to absorb prospective students and others are working to
encourage them to go to the absorbing schools. Toppling schools’ enrollment
sequentially may prove to be an extended process, so it’s also worth thinking
about how to make movements like this sustainable. Nevertheless, tanking a
university’s enrollment for even a single year could cause revenues to fall so
significantly that the corresponding budget cuts induce a phenomenon similar to
human capital flight, where employees of the institution jump ship to find better
opportunities elsewhere. Some of this human capital flight is bound to be
absorbed by other private institutions, but as the strength of free and public
alternatives grows, an increasing fraction of this flight will be absorbed by said
alternatives, consequently accelerating the enrollment toppling process!
● When the university is at its most vulnerable: answer the call to action made
in the piece Neocolonial Providence and organize a general insurrection to
expropriate all capital, land, and other assets that belong to the university;
destroy all of the university's administrative, governing, and policing bodies;
establish mechanisms for the popular control of the university’s resources by
Indigenous and Black populations of the hemisphere, as well as poor and
working-class residents of Rhode Island; place all of the university’s land under
the stewardship of the Indigenous nations it was stolen from.
Striking the Match | what now?

182

First we’ll come for the bear, and they will not be able to control us—
Because we cannot be controlled.
Then we’ll come for the pilgrim, and they will not be able to stop us–
Because we cannot be stopped.
Then we’ll come for the ivy, and they will not be able to contain us—
Because we cannot be contained.
Then we’ll come for them all—and they will be ours for the taking.
Burn, build, and bring Brown to its knees. Gaggggggg! <3
Resources that Influenced this Essay
●  Texts about Brown’s corrupt, immoral, and oppressive conduct:
○ WikiLeaks revealing a lack of admissions integrity (part 1 & part 2)
courtesy of the Guardians of Peace
○ Neocolonial Providence by Servius G
○ Housing Activist Asata Tigrai On Gentrification In Providence by Andrew
Stewart
○ Brown University, PILOTS, and Tax-Exemptions by I. Harry David
○ Campus Life Speaking Truth Statement by Speaking Truth DCL
○ Paxson defends donations after critiques by students and faculty are
launched about contributions from the Koch Brothers and Warren Kanders
○ Paxson’s response to the Brown Divest referendum
○ Paxson’s response to #BlackWalk50 demands
○ Po Metacom Camp announcement and SAPMC statement
○ Remembering Race at Brown
○ Visionary Organizing at Our University by Stoni Tomson
○ (Re)Imagining Brown 250+ by Phoebe Young
●  Texts about the theory of social reproduction:
○ Wikipedia: Social Reproduction
○ Enyclopedia.com: Social Reproduction
○ Khan Academy: Social Reproduction
○ Social Reproduction and College Access by Gabriel R. Serna and
Rebecca Woulfe

183

● The Undercommons by Fred Moten and Stefano Harney: a book that is helpful
for thinking through how to embody subversiveness while existing within a
university.
● “The Racial Bribe–Let’s Give It Back” (pg. 231-8) from The New Jim Crow by
Michell Alexander: a critique of tokenism, exceptionalism, and the shortfalls of
affirmative action.
● The Fall of the Faculty by Benjamin Ginsberg: a book that discusses the rise of
administrations at universities in the US.
● “An Introduction to Dual Power Strategy” by Brian A. Dominick: a helpful piece for
understanding the dynamics of transition and strategies for the abolition of
oppressive regimes.
● Leverage Points by Donella Meadows: a great little piece about systems theory
that explores how to effectively manipulate systems.
● “The Forms of Capital” by Pierre Bourdieu: a theory that postulates three kinds of
capital: economic, cultural, and social.
● Postcapitalism by Paul Mason: a book that describes an emerging alternative to
capitalism that embraces the powers of information technology and automation.
●  Texts about the race and class dynamics of college social networks:
○ Peer Social Networks Among Low-income Students At An Elite College by
Eric J. Kaplan
○ Race and Class Matters at an Elite College by Elizabeth Aries
●  Texts about the value of a degree and the higher education price bubble:
○ The Atlantic: The College Wealth Premium Has Collapsed
○ Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis: Is College Still Worth It?
○ The Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce: The
Economic Value of College Majors
●  Texts about recent college and university closures:
○ CNBC: The other college debt crisis: Schools are going broke

184
○ Boston.com: The ‘perfect storm’ behind the recent college closings and
how it could change New England
○ U.S. News & World Report: The Higher Education Apocalypse
○ Forbes: The End Of College Is Coming
●  Texts about the rise of online education:
○ World Economic Forum: The COVID-19 pandemic has changed education
forever. This is how
○ CNN: Employers on online education
○ StraighterLine: A Brief History Of Online Learning
○ Online Learning Consortium: Sizing the Opportunity
○ Online Learning Consortium: Class Differences
○ National Center for Educational Statistics: Enrollment and Employees in
Postsecondary Institutions
Disclaimer: this essay does not advocate for the use of arson and is not responsible for any arson that
takes place at Brown or any other private university.

185

“CPax, stop trying to make the Ivy League happen! It’s not going to
happen!”
– Regina George

186

“See? That’s the thing with you senior administrators. You think everybody
is in love with you when actually, everybody HATES you!
Like, you all talk about ‘diversity and inclusion,’ for example, but guess
what? You’re still helping to prop up a racist, imperialist institution! So why
are you still messing with Christina and Russell and Barbara and Eric and
their BS, racist tokenism? I’ll tell you why, because you are a mean girl!
You’re a bitch!”
– Janis ian

Item sets